Racist crime rises in Sunderland

Two racist crimes are reported every week in Sunderland.

Statistics revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show there have been 331 racially-aggravated crimes in Sunderland between 2006 and 2008.

There have been 36 race crimes reported in the city this year, including six assaults, three common assaults, 24 harassment incidents, one fear or provocation offence and two incidents of damage.

Police today said they have good relationships with ethnic communities and are committed to driving down race-related crime.

But some community groups have told the Echo they would like more work to be done.

Superintendent Kay Blyth, said: "Respect for the diversity of cultures within Sunderland is paramount for all members of our community policing teams.

"The teams have excellent relationships with established and emerging ethnic communities across Sunderland and we work closely with them to ensure that any incidents of racially-motivated crime are quickly brought to our attention.

"We also have two dedicated community support co-ordinators who support the needs of minority ethnic victims of crime in Sunderland and actively promote the services provided by Northumbria Police."

The figures show there were 129 race crimes in Sunderland last year, up from 92 in 2007.

There were 110 racially-aggravated incidents in the city in 2006.

Supt Blyth said the Sunderland Arch Partnership encourages the reporting of racist crimes through a variety of sources and agencies.

She added: "Racially-motivated crime will not be tolerated and we will always act swiftly to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice and to provide the appropriate support to victims."

The figures show Sunderland central has been the worst area, with 103 racially-aggravated offences reported between 2006-2009. The north of the city has been second worst affected, with 75 race crimes in the same period.

Abdur Rokib, chairman of Sunderland Bangladeshi Community Centre in Hendon, said the problem seemed to be improving until recently.

He added: "We are worrying about it because crime is getting worse. We've had cars sprayed with a chemical which has damaged them. That is happening very often."

Mr Rokib said he would like to see more money for community projects and more police on the streets.

Tahri Khan, chairman of Sunderland's Unity Multicultural Organisation said he feared the number of race crimes is higher than the figures show.

He added: "People are frightened that if they report it to the police and they get involved it will make it worse for them in their neighbourhood."

Mr Khan said more should be done to tackle the problem and there should be more community involvement.

Kumareswardas Ramanathas, project manager at Young Asian Voices, said he thought the city could benefit from more integration work in the community.