Belfast Telegraph

Belfast race hate crimes up 87% in year

By Rebecca Black

The number of racist crimes reported in Belfast has almost doubled in the last year, according to new figures.

They have risen by 87% in the past 12 months.

Similarly, the number of homophobic incidents reported has increased by 47%.

The most prolific hate crime remains sectarianism, with 259 incidents recorded in the same period in 2013 compared to 190 in 2012.

The rise of reported incidents is believed to be at least partially down to more victims coming forward – last year voluntary organisation NIACRO estimated that only one in five hate crimes was being reported.

Now the council has launched a new billboard and online campaign aimed at encouraging the reporting of hate crime.

Alliance councillor Maire Hendron, who chairs the council's Good Relations Steering Group, said as Belfast becomes more diverse, it is important to show civil leadership.

"Belfast is becoming more and more diverse, with many minority ethnic groups making this city their home and it's important that we as a council show civic leadership," she said.

"While the investigation of hate crime is a police matter, we're working hard through our tension monitoring to establish channels of communication and to raise awareness about how to report hate crime – be it racist, sectarian or homophobic."

Ms Hendron said she believes that often hate crimes go unreported because victims are afraid of reprisals or have no confidence in the system.

"This campaign will hopefully focus people's minds on what a hate crime is and how they need to speak up and report this kind of behaviour," she said.

PSNI Chief Inspector Gabriel Moran said police have produced literature in different languages to make the process of reporting a hate crime easier. "It is important that reporting takes place when an incident occurs," he said.

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