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Hate crimes soar by nearly a quarter in West Midlands

Racially and religiously aggravated offences rose by nearly a quarter in the West Midlands last year as hundreds more incidents were reported.

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Reports of hate crimes have risen.

West Midlands Police recorded the second highest number of hate crime offences in 2020.

A total of 5,115 incidents were reported, up 23 per cent from 4,145 in 2019. Data showed 40 per cent of these offences were assigned the outcome "investigation complete - no suspect identified".

Nationally, racially and religiously aggravated offences hit a new high during 2020.

The impact of the coronavirus lockdown, along with protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, were two of the main factors named by forces as helping to drive the increase in offences, along with improved recording of hate crimes.

As the largest two force areas, the Met and West Midlands police forces received the highest number of reports, followed by West Yorkshire.

The figures have been revealed as racism is once again in the spotlight after three England players were abused on social media after missing penalties during the Euros final.

West Midlands Police said they had seen a rise in hate crime "especially during the pandemic", with "an increase in neighbour disputes and online social media offences, with lockdown playing a part in this".

Chiefs stressed that "every report is taken seriously", but "unfortunately hate crimes are rarely captured on CCTV with audio or even on officers' body-worn video, making them difficult to prosecute", adding that "sometimes a victim doesn't want to pursue a prosecution, they just want the incident recorded".

Police-recorded hate crime offences have been on an upwards trend for the past decade, with spikes often driven by national events, the NPCC said - examples being the 2016 EU referendum, Covid-19 and, in May 2020, the murder in the United States of George Floyd, which led to public demonstrations both in support and against the Black Lives Matter movement.

A spokesperson from the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: "Positive steps have been taken by the police to improve recording practices, but we know that victims of hate crime may not report incidents if, for example, they have low trust in police and criminal justice agencies.

"It is essential that hate crimes or incidents are reported to the police to help ensure they are properly investigated and prosecuted.

"An increase in the number of police recorded cases could be a sign of improvements in recording practices, but more still needs to be done to improve the process and the quality of support for victims."

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