A record number of racially and religiously aggravated offences were recorded by Bedfordshire Police last year, new analysis shows.
Last year, racially-motivated crime was put in the spotlight as three of England's footballers faced racist abuse after missing penalties during the European Championship final, resulting in the team being knocked out of the tournament.
New figures suggest this may have contributed to a spike in racially aggravated offences, as dozens of police forces reported record numbers of hate crimes due to race or religion in the same year.
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Analysis of Home Office data by the PA news agency shows there were 799 racially or religiously aggravated offences recorded in Bedfordshire in 2021, a rise of 21% from the 659 the year before.
It means more of these offences were reported to Bedfordshire Police last year than in any year since comparable data began in 2013.
Sergeant Simon Taylor, Bedfordshire Police’s Hate Crime lead, said: “We treat all reports of hate crime with the utmost severity and members of the public in Bedfordshire should be confident in reporting incidents to us and know that they will be investigated thoroughly.
“We continue to work with a number of partners across the region around hate crime, and I would encourage anyone who has been the victim of an incident to get in touch with us right away, either through our website or by calling 101.”
Out of the 44 police forces across England and Wales, 39 saw an increase, and 34 saw an all-time high for racially and religiously aggravated crimes.
Assault, harassment and criminal damage are among the offences recorded.
Victim Support, a charity that works with victims of crime, called the figures “seriously concerning”.
Diana Fawcett, chief executive at Victim Support, said the organisation had recorded a similar increase in victims of hate crime coming to the charity.
“We consistently see spikes in hate crime linked to world events – for example, following the Euros finals last summer – so this could be one reason for the rise,” she said.
“This trend is seriously concerning – no person or community should be targeted because of who they are.”
There were 76,884 racially or religiously aggravated offences across England and Wales last year – the highest number ever reported, and more than double the 30,798 recorded in 2013.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission, an independent government body, said that there could be numerous reasons for the increase, including better recording practices, but warned that many offences are still going unreported.
A spokesperson for the commission said: “We know that victims of hate crime may not report incidents if, for example, they have low trust in police and criminal justice agencies.
“More still needs to be done to improve the process and the quality of support for victims. This includes effective hate crime training for police forces and reform to ensure our hate crime laws are clear and easy to understand.”
Just five forces across the country saw a fall in racially or religiously motivated crimes last year – Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Wiltshire.