Race hate crimes on the increase
CRIMES motivated by race and religion in Suffolk have soared by more than 20% in a year, new figures have revealed.There were 297 racially or religiously aggravated offences reported in the county in 2003-4 - a rise from 246 in the previous year.
CRIMES motivated by race and religion in Suffolk have soared by more than 20% in a year, new figures have revealed.
There were 297 racially or religiously aggravated offences reported in the county in 2003-4 - a rise from 246 in the previous year. The 20.7% hike was more than 7% above the average increase recorded across Britain.
The number of racist incidents also rose by 18.5% in Suffolk from 345 in 2002-3 to 409 in 2003-4, with the upward trend reportedly continuing into this year.
The figures, which will be discussed by a Suffolk Police Authority committee on October 14, also show that 211 black people were stopped and searched in 2003-4.
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This made them five times more likely to be stopped and searched by Suffolk police officers than white people - a significant rise on the previous year.
Other findings of the force's report include black people in the county being between five and six times more likely to be arrested than white people. But only 15% of black people received a caution following their arrest, compared to 26.8% of white people.
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Harold Mangar, vice-president of the Ipswich and Suffolk Commission for Racial Equality and member of the police authority, said the rising figures for racist and religious incidents were “concerning”.
“That has been the situation following the September 11 attacks in 2001. I think that when we look at this year's figures there will be an increase in incidents after July 7,” he said.
Shammi Jalota, manager of Suffolk County Council's racial harassment initiative, said the increase in incidents was down to local government and police improving the way the statistics are recorded.
He said there was also more being done to encourage people to come forward and report incidents.
“Any incident is awful for the victim and their family but we are encouraged to see people come forward,” he said.
Mr Jalota said the rise in the likelihood of black people being stopped and searched was “a worry”.
“I think we need to be asking the criminal justice sector why there's been an increase and looking at what other things we can do to ensure communities do not feel isolated or fear the law enforcement agencies there to protect them.”
Richard Spring, Conservative MP for West Suffolk, said the county has a good record of harmonious relations but he feared the changes in the licensing laws could see an increase in the number of racist incidents.
The police authority's equal opportunities and diversity committee has been asked whether any action needs to be taken following the review of Suffolk's position in the light of the local and national statistics.
A spokesman for Suffolk police said: “Suffolk police does not tolerate racially-motivated crime and treats any reports of such crimes extremely seriously.
“Traditionally, these types of incidents have been under reported so we are actually encouraged that more people are reporting this type of crime because it indicates that people from minority and ethnic communities have greater confidence in the police to come forward with their concerns.
“Suffolk Constabulary has comprehensive checking and auditing procedures in place to ensure that searches are carried out in accordance with the relevant code of practice and only when officers have the appropriate grounds.”