POLICE joined in a football training session with AFC Masters players to break down barriers.

Officers joined the team, which consists of adults with disabilities, to raise awareness about hate crime.

Last month the force marked National Hate Crime Awareness Week with a catalogue of activities throughout the borough.

Bolton North Neighbourhood Policing Team’s Sgt Martin Lally, PC Dave Heald, PC Danny Worthington, PCSO Kevin Blakemore and special PC Richard Hill went to the team’s training session at St Joseph High School’s sports dome in Chorley New Road, Horwich, on Saturday morning.

They spoke to members about hate crime and joined in with a few games with the adults team.

Sgt Lally said: “We were passing on important messages that GMP takes positive action against incidents of hate crimes and told people not to be scared of speaking to the police if they had been a victim of hate crime.

“A couple of people came up and said they now felt more confident approaching police in the future.

“It was a really good event. It was great to speak to people in the community. We wanted to show them that police are human beings. I really feel that they will be more confident speaking to police in the future.”

Sgt Lally said officers hope to meet with the team either later this year or next year.

Det Insp Charlotte Cadden, who led the awareness week in Bolton, said she believed the amount of hate incidents reported do not reflect what people are experiencing.

She said: “We have engaged with lots of different groups throughout Hate Crime Awareness Week, given information about what a hate crime is, why it's important to report these crimes, how to report incidents and what sort of police response you should expect.

“We have told people how we will work with partner agencies — victim support, community safety, housing and the fire service — to offer a package of support so that they can have confidence in all our services.

“Reports of hate crime are down on last year but I feel — from speaking to the public — that this is not a true reflection of what people are experiencing in their lives.

“I would urge anyone who thinks they — or someone else — may be being targeted because of their race, religion, gender, sexuality, alternative lifestyle or disability to contact the police or visit a third party reporting centre or go online to True Vision.”

Call police on 101, visit bolton.gov.uk and search hate crime, or go to report-it.org.uk for information.