Reports of hate crime in Lancashire have shown a spike this year – but authorities believe that the figures are only scratching the surface of the issue.
From racist attacks on taxi drivers to bullying refugee children in school, a new report makes for disturbing reading.
It reveals that under reporting of hate crime and a lack of awareness of what constitutes hate crime were key obstacles in fighting the problem.
There were 2,105 hate crimes recorded in Lancashire between April 2017 and March 2018 and to date, since April this year 1,121 hate crimes have been recorded.
That equates to an average increase of 49 cases each month this year so far.
And Stephen Brookes, who spent 10 years leading the fight against disability hate crime in Blackpool,said he is “delighted” by the figures.
“It means people are reporting,” he said.
“What has been the case is people haven’t reported because they haven’t understood they can report or they haven’t understood what hate crime is and have said ‘there’s no point’.
“Fortunately, that has changed.”
After years of dialogue, with victims, police and other organisations like the CPS, the message is finally getting through, he said.
And he hopes to see national reporting of hate crime hit the 10-20,000 mark, at which point he believes it will be a more accurate reflection of the scale of the problem.
Ch Insp Ian Mills, of Lancashire Police, said: “Hate crime only accounts for one per cent of crime statistics, suggesting that it is massively under-reported.”
Given the diversity within the county, he said, the figure should be even higher.
Addressing members of Preston City Council who were discussing hate crime in Lancashire, he added that often the first time a hate crime or incident is reported, it has actually occurred several times perhaps over many years.
The report to councillors highlighted the work of police in schools to help tackle the problem and “break the cycle”.
“Sometimes it is a generational issue where older family members may use words which are not acceptable now,” it added.
Police also told the scrutiny committee that hate crime towards taxi drivers and Asian women, particularly if they were wearing a hijab, has increased since Brexit.
While the majority of hate crime is race related, people who are disabled are also regularly targeted.
Chief executive at Disability Equality Melanie Close, pictured left, said that she is working hard to get people to report hate crime to police.
“We had two incidents this week,” she said. “Neither have been reported to the police.
“The knock-on effect is that people think its okay to shout out and call people lazy when they see someone on a scooter.
“What’s really sad is that when that happened to one person we know, no-one around him challenged that.
“Even if that individual doesn’t want to report it, it needs somebody who was there who heard it to challenge it.
“We really need society to go ‘no, they don’t deserve that’ – to stop making the disabled person the problem.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman said the force “prides itself on striving to make its communities safer and feel safer”.
The spokesman added: “We are committed to tackling all crime motivated by hate and prejudice and we would urge anyone who has been a victim of a hate crime to have the confidence to come forward and report it to police.
“Victims will always be dealt with professionally and sympathetically.”