Suffolk: Racism incidents reported to police rise 62% in Suffolk - highest annual increase in country by 44%

Tim Passmore, Suffolks PCC, promised to seek reassurances from the force that their crime figures w

Tim Passmore, Suffolks PCC, promised to seek reassurances from the force that their crime figures were legitimate and accurate. - Credit: Archant

Racism incidents reported to police in Suffolk rose by the highest amount in the country in the last year, new figures show.

Campaigners last night raised concerns that victims of hate crimes are “normalising” the offence and suffering “long-term trauma”.

And Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, pledged to tackle the issue and reverse the trend.

Government data shows there was a 62% increase in the number of racism incidents reported to Suffolk Constabulary over the past year, from 294 in 2011/12 to 477 in 2012/13.

Out of 48 police forces in England and Wales, the next largest increase was 18% in West Mercia. Thirty-three forces saw the figure drop.

In Suffolk, the longer-term trend showed a different picture, with reported racist incidents falling from 602 in 2008/09, a 21% decline to the 2012/13 figure.

Police chiefs and equality campaigners argued the steep rise was due to a growing confidence in the system, insisting more volunteers are working in improved partnerships to encourage victims of hate crime to come forward.

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The research, released yesterday by the Ministry of Justice, also showed the number of police recorded racially or religiously aggravated offences fell by 21% over the same five-year period, from 316 to 251.

Yvette Gallagher is a project officer at the Suffolk Hate Crime Partnership, a Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Constabulary joint operation which supports people who experience hate crimes.

She is also a member of Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality. It aims to eliminate racial discrimination and promote equality between different racial groups.

She explained the number of volunteers at the partnerships has increased, coinciding with the rise in reports of racism incidents.

But she said: “Hate crime is not something you should have to live with, but the reasons why some people still don’t report them are quite scary.

“They have a lack of faith in the police and don’t think it will be taken seriously. They normalise the behaviour of others and think ‘I’ll just have to put up with this’.

“Two Asian women could walk down Ipswich high street and have their niqab pulled off and not report it, but police could put in extra patrols and speak to the perpetrators.”

She claimed people living with a “history of hate crime” suffer “long-term trauma”.

“It’s important we live in a society free from fear and discrimination, but we don’t,” she added. “People need to remain alert to signs of racism and report them.”

Mr Passmore described the rise in racism incidents as “unacceptable” but said a small minority should not tarnish the image of Suffolk.

“An essential tenet of my police and crime plan is respect for law and order and for other people and we should not expect (hate crimes) in a liberal and democratic society,” he added.

“I am here to hold the constabulary to account and will be raising this issue at our next meeting to see what can be done to reverse the trend.”

Assistant Chief Constable at Suffolk police, Tim Newcomb, said: “We have worked hard with our local communities over the years so that victims have the confidence to report hate crime and racist incidents and we work in partnership with other organisations in Suffolk, such as local authorities, to create other avenues for victims to make contact.”

He said reports of hate crime and racist incidents are treated “seriously” and are prioritised by frontline officers and staff.

“While racist incidents have increased from 2011/12 to 2012/13 the number of racially or religiously aggravated crimes recorded have actually decreased by 14.3% during the same period,” he added.