Charities call for police training on 'mate crime'
Every police force in the UK should be trained to spot the signs of "mate crimes", according to charities.
The Association for Real Change believes thousands of people with learning difficulties have been befriended by abusers.
It says they are at risk from these people, who can who assault, exploit and steal from them.
Campaigners say in many cases, incidents reported to police aren't properly dealt with.
The College of Policing says the UK is leading the way in dealing with disability hate crime but admits there is room for improvement.
"They scared me out of my own property," says Nicky Aver, who was a victim of 'mate crime'.
"I had a friend who was supposed to be a friend, but he stole my computer," she says.
Recorded disability hate crimes in Devon and Cornwall
- April 2011 to March 2012 - 9
- April 2012 to March 2013 - 84
- April 2013 to present - 120
"They had a party because there was empty cans all over my floor, they used my bed for other things, then I found out he threw my keys into the river."
Nicky spent nearly three years staying with friends because she didn't want to go home.
"I tried reporting it to the police three or four times, they came out, checked it and everything, said everything was alright and it just never went any further," she says.
Devon and Cornwall Police has since trained 350 frontline officers and 400 control staff on mate crime and says Nicky's case would be handled differently today.
The murders of Gemma Hayter, 27, in Warwickshire and Steven Hoskin, 38, in Cornwall have been linked to the issue.
Daniel Newstead, Joe Samuel Boyer and Chantelle Franklyn Booth, were convicted of Gemma Hayter's murder in Rugby in 2011, when the three were aged between 18 and 22.
Two teenagers were found guilty of her manslaughter.
The charity Mencap estimates 90% of people with disabilities experience offences motivated by prejudice or hate crimes.
They also say disability hate crime is under-reported.
"Often victims don't report the abuse because they see the perpetrators as friends they want to keep," campaigner Tina Feather says.
"It can be difficult for victims to spot the signs they're being abused and they don't think the police will believe them."
She adds: "Often it's not recognised by police as a crime."
The Crime Survey for England and Wales, which looks at victims' experiences of crime, suggests 124,000 disability motivated incidents occurred between 2011/12 and 2012/13.
Although more cases are being logged by police, official figures show only 1,757 offences were recorded in 2011/12 and 1,841 in 2012/13.
Paul Giannasi, the police spokesman on hate crime says: "Some forces have progressed further in raising awareness than others.
"We have a significant way to go, but the UK's probably the most advanced state in dealing with this in the world,"
Charities claim families, friends, carers and neighbours should encourage victims to come forward.
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