Rise in hate crimes linked to Brexit
- Credit: Archant
Hate crimes in North Somerset have increased by 23 per cent over the past two years, with racial offences linked to Brexit.
The total number of hate crimes rose from 110 in 2016 to 153 in 2018, with the highest number of cases linked to sexual orientation.
There was also a 39 per cent increase in racial offences and a 13 per cent increase in religious hate crime - with figures revealing a spike following the EU referendum.
Superintendent Andy Bennett, Avon and Somerset's force lead for hate crime said: "We do know there's been an impact from Brexit so when we look at figures, particularly around racial hatred, they started to rise at the time of the vote.
"We still believe there's a lot of ignorance, and it's almost like it has given people a mandate.
"When you look at European minorities, it's the same across most racial groups, and that's been replicated nationally and it's something we are really concerned about."
The spike in hate crimes has been attributed to a number of factors such as, the result of the EU referendum, which is said to have emboldened and validated individuals already inclined towards racial hate to act.
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Police say the increase can also be attributed to greater awareness of hate crimes and more victims coming forward.
Neighbourhood teams have strong links with charities and religious groups to enable them to support victims and encourage people to come forward.
However, officers say transgender and disability hate crimes continue to be severely under-reported.
Supt Bennett added: "I am confident these crimes are becoming increasingly rejected in our society and we are seeing more people come forwards to report hate crimes.
"Having said this, there are still too many communities at risk of under reporting hate crimes due to a wide variety of factors including language barriers, a fear of payback and a lack of understanding of about what happens when a crime is reported as well as accepting hate crimes as normal behaviour.
"We need your help to identify those who are committing these crimes and ultimately stop it happening.
"If you have been a victim of a hate crime, we encourage you to come forwards, either to us or to one of our partner organisations, and report the incident as soon as you can."
Police officers have been restricted from taking holidays next week in case of Brexit-related unrest.