Criminal offenses aggravated by race and religion recorded by police in England and Wales reached a new high in 2020, with more than a quarter of investigations closed without forces identifying a suspect, according to an analysis.
The impact of coronavirus lockdowns, along with protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, were two of the main factors cited by the forces as contributing to the increase in offenses, along with better recording of hate crimes.
A total of 61,851 aggravated offenses because of race and religion were recorded in 2020, up 7% from 57,825 in 2019.
Independent charity Victim Support called the figures “shocking” and said it was “very worrying that so many cases are not resolved”, while the Equality and Human Rights Commission warned that although the police have taken “positive steps” in recording hate crimes, “much remains to be done to improve the process and the quality of victim support.”
The National Council of Chiefs of Police (NPCC) said the forces have been working hard to improve their handling of hate crimes, including better recording of offenses, adding: “We are working with the forces to help them understand and improve the service they provide to victims.
The figures cover all forces in England and Wales except Greater Manchester Police, which were unable to provide full data from July 2019 to March 2020.
Of the 43 forces that provided full data, 33 reported an increase in offenses aggravated by race and religion from 2019 to 2020, while 30 forces said the numbers hit a new high last year.
The offenses – all of which are defined as hate crimes – include assault aggravated by race or religion, harassment and criminal damage.
The analysis was compiled by the PA News Agency from data released by the Home Office.
It shows that the Metropolitan Police recorded the highest number of such offenses in 2020 (15,101; up 7% from 14,051 in 2019), followed by the West Midlands (5,115; up 23% from compared to 4,145) and West Yorkshire (4,627; down 1% from 4,681).
A Met spokesperson said the Covid-19 outbreak was having a “direct impact” on hate crime levels in the capital, with “an increase in reports of racially aggravated hate crime incidents, in both online and offline, where some communities have been targeted due to the pandemic ”.
West Midlands Police said they have seen an increase in hate crimes “particularly during the pandemic”, with “an increase in neighborly disputes and violations on online social media, with lockdown playing a role.”
West Yorkshire Police Chief Inspector Chris Matthews said the force has worked hard to encourage all victims of hate crimes to report ‘all incidents’ and to ‘ensure these offenses are accurately recorded’ , which led to a high volume of documents.
Leicestershire Police saw the largest year-over-year percentage increase in aggravated race and religion offenses in 2020, from 714 to 1,297 (an 82% increase), followed by Dyfed- Powys (up 49%) and Dorset (43%). .
Dyfed-Powys Police said they anticipated an increase in offenses last year following a number of “significant events” including “community tensions around English over Welsh and Welsh on English crimes “during the lockdown as well as” protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement “.
Just over a quarter (27%) of offenses aggravated by race and religion recorded in 2020 were closed without police identifying a suspect. This is an improvement from 2019, when around three in 10 (31%) were closed without a suspect in the frame.
But among some forces, the proportion was higher in 2020, with the UK Transport Police closing 42%, and the West Midlands Police and Metropolitan Police – two of the largest forces in the country – closing 40% and 31% respectively.
The description “investigation completed – no suspects identified” is used when a reported crime has been investigated “to the extent possible” and the case is closed pending further investigation possibilities.
Metropolitan Police said that when any allegation of hate crime is made, the force will “launch a proportionate investigation,” although in some cases there may be a lack of evidence to support a prosecution.
West Midlands Police have stressed that “every report is taken seriously” but “unfortunately hate crimes are rarely captured on CCTV with audio or even on video carried on officers’ bodies, making them difficult to prosecute” , adding that “sometimes a victim doesn’t ‘I don’t want to sue, they just want the incident recorded.
Diana Fawcett, chief executive of the independent charity Victim Support, said that throughout the pandemic they have seen a high number of victims of hate crimes seek help, especially in the aftermath of the easing of blockages.
She said: “We have seen victims who not only live in pain and suffering after suffering horrific abuse, but who have also seen their sense of security, well-being and self-esteem damaged.” , adding that the victims must have “the confidence that they will obtain justice for these incidents”.
A spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “Positive steps have been taken by the police to improve registration practices, but we know that victims of hate crimes cannot not report incidents if, for example, they have little confidence in the police and justice agencies.
“It is essential that hate crimes or incidents are reported to the police to ensure they are properly investigated and prosecuted.
“An increase in the number of cases registered by the police could be a sign of improved registration practices, but much remains to be done to improve the process and the quality of support for victims.
NPCC Deputy Hate Crimes Chief of Police Mark Hamilton said, “Targeting someone because of their race or some other characteristic is totally unacceptable and should not be tolerated.
“Everyone has the right to live their life without fear of being assaulted, whether physically, verbally or online. Police take all reports of threats and abuse seriously and we will do their best to bring perpetrators to justice. “