South Wales Police urge more hate crime reporting after Brexit

Supt Liane Bartlett and Shazia Awan
Image caption Businesswoman Shazia Awan joined police in Cardiff for the appeal

South Wales Police have urged hate crime victims to come forward, fearing an under-reporting of incidents in wake of the Brexit vote.

There has been a slight rise in the first week of July but police fear this may not be the full picture.

Supt Liane Bartlett said "there's a tangible feeling that there has been a change in climate".

Businesswoman Shazia Awan has reported six incidents and said hate crime must be "challenged at any opportunity".

She joined Supt Bartlett in an appeal for victims to come forward.

Recorded hate crime in south Wales for the two weeks to the end of June was down slightly on the same period the year before, 104 compared to 113.

But in the first week of July it rose slightly - 47 reported hate crimes in the force area compared to 44 for the same week in 2015.

Incidents include:

  • Graffiti
  • Verbal abuse in shops and on transport or in the street.
  • Abuse on social media

Police have been in contact with community leaders and want to be "on the front foot" in tackling issues and providing reassurance.

Supt Bartlett wants people to report more incidents, adding south Wales has "for a long time been an open, tolerant and safe place to be - we need to make people feel safe".

Image caption Shazia Awan said the experiences of people she has met in the last two weeks suggest there is a problem

Award-winning businesswoman Ms Awan, born in Caerphilly and living in Cardiff, has already reported six incidents - the first on the morning of the referendum result, which involved abuse on social media by an organised far-right group.

Ms Awan, a former Conservative parliamentary candidate and Remain campaigner, said she had also spoken to friends, including a Congolese man who had been abused in Cardiff on Wednesday.

"He feels different now and doesn't feel welcome any more," she said.

"The daughter of a friend of mine, who's 16, asked 'do we have to pack up and go, because they don't want us here?'"

'Totally unacceptable'

Another friend in a supermarket was shoved by another shopper and told to "go home".

She said there were sometimes language barriers to reporting crimes and worries people would be wasting police time.

But she said victims were treated seriously by the police - and it could stop further crimes.

Supt Bartlett said reporting incidents also "provides another piece in the jigsaw" in tackling the problem and tracking down offenders.

She said all forms of hate crime were "totally unacceptable" and would be fully investigated.

Victims would also be offered support from within their own communities, she added.

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