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  1. ITV Report

'It’s hard to constantly be demonised when you’ve done nothing' - shocking rise in hate crimes

Exclusive figures obtained by ITV News Anglia have revealed a sharp rise in hate crime across the region.

Incidents of race and religious hate crime have increased by more than a third - with some areas seeing increases of more than 75%.

One woman, who wants only to be known as Shana, says the abuse she receives because of her religious beliefs has become so frequent she feels "scared to exist".

Although used to the comments and gestures, she says she is being targeted now more than ever before.

Last month, in her home town of Dunstable, Shana reported three incidents to police in the space of just two weeks.

'Shana' says she's "scared to exist" Credit: ITV News Anglia.

"One of them was just a man shouting at me and my daughter 'why are you here? There are no mosques here'.

"But these things escalate. After the attacks at Finsbury Park Mosque, a van pulled up beside me and my daughter and made machine gun noises at us from the window which really terrified me because of recent events."

– "Shana"

But even before the latest round of terror attacks - including the Manchester Arena bombing and London Bridge attack - race and religious hate crime were on the rise.

Figures obtained through a freedom of information request show the number of reported incidents went up by 48% in the first quarter of this year compared with the same time last year.

The biggest spike was In Hertfordshire, which had an increase of 77%, followed by Cambridgeshire where it rose by 71%.

In Essex, the number of incidents increased by 56%.

Elsewhere:

  • Bedfordshire - up 21%
  • Northamptonshire - up by 7%
  • Suffolk - up by 2%
  • Norfolk - down by 32%

"It’s really hard to constantly be demonised when you’ve done nothing. And it’s really difficult to have your child notice and start to question the things around them. When your child is six you want them to think that the world is a lovely place and it’s safe and it’s wonderful. "I have to tell my child in the blistering heat she can’t have the window open because somebody might throw acid in their face."

– Shana

Police forces across the region say that a drive to get more people reporting hate crime is partly responsible for the rise.

But recent terror attacks in London and in Manchester mean those numbers have continued to climb.

"We’ve increased patrols and resourcing, particularly in some areas, particularly in Peterborough, where there have been some concerns and a couple of really nasty incidents reported. We will continue to do that predominantly to try and provide reassurance to the communities that are affected."

– Alec Wood, Chief Constable, Cambridgeshire.
Muslims across the region have felt an increase in tensions. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

At his mosque in Peterborough, Amir Suleman says first Brexit and then a string of terror attacks led to anger against the Muslim community.

He said most stories seem to be about women being targeted by men. Although mostly verbal abuse, others have had hijabs ripped off.

"I just think it’s people externalising. I don’t know whether they were closet racists before and they feel they’ve been able to justify doing what they’re doing - I don’t know, but this is clearly not going away."

– Amir Suleman, Masjid Khadijah and Islamic Centre.