Grieving elderly people in Sheffield targeted in 'mate crime' spree

Grieving elderly residents are being targeted for exploitation, according to Sheffield Council.

Monday, 17th February 2020, 6:06 pm

The problem was revealed during a safety scrutiny committee meeting where members discussed a report on hate crime.

Maxine Stavrianakos, head of neighbourhood intervention and tenant support, said perpetrators were targeting people who recently lost someone close by checking obituary notices and then befriending them.

It is also known as 'mate crime' and can include anything from taking or borrowing money to consuming food and drink. It is based on the assumption the victim will not report them as they are their 'mate'.

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Sheffield town hall

Ms Stavrianakos said it was a new issue but similar to cuckooing – when drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person to use as a base.

Another council report showed there had also been a rise in Universal Credit claimants being conned out of benefits by people pretending to help with online applications but taking the money themselves.

Of those, 68 per cent were related to race, 14 per cent sexual orientation, eight per cent disability, six per cent religion and five per cent transgender.

Online hate crime had risen by 36 per cent and Ms Stavrianakos said there had been a spike related to Brexit too.

Hate crime can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property.

The council’s safer and stronger communities scrutiny committee has set up a cross-party group to review incidents.

It agreed to concentrate on increasing awareness and reporting, which includes spending £10,000 on a 24-hour helpline and appointing a hate crime co-ordinator who, on a daily basis, checks the council and South Yorkshire Police internal systems to monitor trends.

Concerns were raised whether the helpline was value for money as not many people were using it yet. Despite this, they agreed it was an important service to have that may need more promotion.

To report a hate crime, call 101 for non-emergency and 999 in an emergency.