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Friday, 3 December 2010

Racist crimes and verbal insults are on the increase in the Bristol area (UK)

Racist incidents are on the increase in the Bristol area, according to the latest police figures.

The number of crimes and verbal insults reported to Avon and Somerset police rose by eight per cent from the 2008-09 to the 2009-10 financial year.

Statistics released by the Home Office show that in 2009-10 there were 2,037 reported, up 152 on the 1,885 reported in the 12 months previous.

The majority of hate crimes – accounting for about 60 per cent – take place in multi-cultural Bristol.

Batook Pandya, the director of Sari (Support Against Racist Incidents), believes the increase is down to a combination of factors.

He said: "People now know they have to report hate crimes and they are reporting them, but racist incidents are on the increase.

"In the present climate of unemployment and higher deprivation, you will always have more racial intolerance.

"For example, when Cabot Circus was being built and there were lots of Polish workers in the city, we heard of hate crimes affecting Polish families and insults relating to jobs. The demography of Bristol is changing faster than any city in the UK so we need to look at how we can stop racism happening in the future, when ethnic minorities move into the more traditionally white areas."

In 2008-09, Sari dealt with 650 racist incidents, which rose to 867 in 2009-10. But Mr Pandya has noticed a change in the type of complaints.

He added: "We don't see as many serious racist incidents as we used to. In the past, we would have people having their faces slashed and crimes like that, but nowadays it is more verbal, neighbourly issues.

"We always encourage people to call the police. If things are going to change, the multi-agencies need to come together to work through it."

Police believe the increase in recorded racist incidents could be down to efforts to encourage more reporting.

Assistant Chief Constable John Long said: "A key objective as part of Bristol's local hate crime action plan was to encourage reporting, particularly among communities who historically have a mistrust of public authorities.

"Efforts to encourage more reporting across Bristol is likely to have influenced the recorded increase we have seen. The increase could also be partly accounted for by an increased confidence in reporting these type of offences.

"It's encouraging that our detection rate for racially and religiously aggravated offences is 53.8 per cent, having risen from 34 per cent in 2008-09."

A number of local agencies are working together to investigate crimes, raise awareness and support victims.

The Partnership Against Hate Crime includes the police, South Gloucestershire Council, Victim Support, Sari and Educational Action Challenging Homophobia.

A Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel is held at the Crown Prosecution Service office in Bristol every three months, reviewing how cases have been handled, investigated and prosecuted. Sari can be contacted on 0117 9420060.

This is Bristol