Record levels of hate crime were reported in West Yorkshire in the wake of last year’s EU referendum, new analysis has shown.
The county’s force was one of only three in England and Wales to record more than 1,000 hate crimes in the three months ending in September, up 46 per cent compared to April-June 2016.
For charities working with the victims of these crimes, the figures confirm their own experience of soaring demand in the aftermath of what many view as a divisive campaign.
Mike Ainsworth, of Leeds-based Stop Hate UK, said: “It was something that gave license to people who held racist views that it was somehow acceptable. To me, it was a lack of moral leadership and the way the Leave campaign conducted themselves. Had the campaign been conducted in a different manner, I don’t think we would have seen that explosion in hate crime.”
West Yorkshire recorded 1,013 incidents compared to South Yorkshire at 225, Humberside at 140 and North Yorkshire at 64.
Only the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester recorded more incidents at 3,356 and 1,033 respectively.
But Mr Ainsworth said: “What I think is interesting, from some of the knowledge I have, is the forces that have seen that marked increase made efforts after the vote and after they started to see the rise, to go to communities, to tell them it was not acceptable.
“These forces saw a rise in reported hate crime, which gives a real reflection, because they encouraged people to report it.”
Community meetings were held in Leeds after a racially aggravated incident involving a Polish shopkeeper in Bramley last July. Two people were charged in connection with the incident and are awaiting trial.
And West Yorkshire Police worked closely with the county’s police and crime commissioner on a campaign to encourage reporting of incidents.
Assistant Chief Constable Angela Williams said: “Wherever there is evidence of a crime we will seek to prosecute and even if what has happened is not a crime, people need to come forward in order they can receive the appropriate support. Behaviour of this nature has no place in our society.”