Victoria Police are calling on the public to report any  prejudice-motivated incidents  which have been on the rise since the start of the COVID pandemic last year and a new media campaign is to be launched soon to drive home the message.

Acting Inspector Andrew Gardner who spoke to a Multicultural Media Reference Group meeting on Thursday said the Asian, Muslim and Jewish communities were the most commonly targeted groups for abuse but were not the only ones impacted by prejudice-motivated crime over the last 18 months.

A/Insp Gardner who is the Acting Community Engagement Inspector, Eastern Region said other groups that were being targeted included any group identified by status or identity, race, religion, sexuality, age or disability.

Graffiti or damage to property, people yelling insults out of passing cars or passing comments in public spaces were examples of prejudice-motivated crime that have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic.

“Incidents have varied to include assaults, property damage and have been more frequent,” A/Insp Gardner said, adding that the police were talking to community groups about the situation.

Acting Inspector Andrew Gardner Community Engagement, Eastern Region. Photo: Supplied

Over the past week the Jewish community had been targeted following media reports of breaches of pandemic regulations in one case. The Muslim community were also targets most recently following the cases of COVID linked to Al-Taqwa College in Truganina at the end of August. He did not think that incidents of prejudice were linked to developments in Afghanistan or the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

“When cases do go to court, the courts will be made aware (by the police) that there were elements of prejudice (in the case),” A/Insp Gardner said.

The Community Engagement Manager (Priority and Safer Communities Division) Erin Kirby said the new campaign would include online video presentations in 10 languages, Erin Kirby.

“Victoria Police will investigate prejudice motivated crimes but not all cases of prejudice and hate are reported to the police,” she said. The video would convey what behaviours constituted prejudice and how they could be reported in language and imagery that was easy to understand.

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“The fundamental issue is to get people reporting on any cases of prejudice. They may not feel they can do so but they ought to report them,” said A/Insp Gardner.

He added that even if the reports did not immediately result in arrests, police officers would keep the incidents on record should further incidents arise at a later stage.

Also highlighted in the meeting was the Prime (Police Responding to Mental Health) training course for officers responding to mental-health related incidents in the community.

Theresa Banks, Program Manager, PRIME Training said there had been an increase of mental case incidents to the extent that officers statewide were called to such incidents every 10 minutes.

While there were alternative resources available to deal with these incidents in the metropolitan areas, in regional areas it was primarily police officers alone who had to deal with mental health related incidents.

The two-day course, which enjoyed a high-approval rating from participants, provided officers with methods to de-escalate situations before they got out of hand. The course also encouraged officers to engage with family and friends and to refer them to services that were best suited to help.