Racist incidents in Sunderland more than double after Brexit vote

Chris Howson, chairman of Sunderland City of Sanctuary.
Chris Howson, chairman of Sunderland City of Sanctuary.

Racists incidents in Sunderland more than doubled in the three months following the Brexit vote compared to the same period last year, figures have revealed.

Statistics obtained by the Echo by means of a Freedom of Information request to Northumbria Police, show 72 racist incidents were reported between July and September this year, compared with 34 in the corresponding period in 2015.

Sunderland people want to shake off the negative image that others have of us

Chris Howson, chairman of Sunderland City of Sanctuary

And the number of crimes recorded arising from these incidents went up from 30 to 80.

Of these crimes, the number resulting in summons and charges increased by a massive 550% – from four to 26.

In Sunderland, an overwhelming 61% of voters chose to leave the European Union in June’s referendum, with 65% of the city’s population taking part in the ballot.

But earlier this month, an Echo online poll, which received more than 4,200 responses, showed 56% of those taking part would now opt to remain in the union if there was another poll, while just 44% would vote to leave.

Chris Howson, chairman of Sunderland City of Sanctuary, said that while he was aware of a marked increase in racist incidents, he said most people on Wearside are willing to embrace those from other cultures.

The City of Sanctuary network aims to create a welcoming environment for asylum seekers and refugees and help them to integrate with local community, and create a culture of hospitality through education.

Chris said: “From the perspective of Sunderland City of Sanctuary, there has been a noticeable increase in reports of racist incidences on the streets of Sunderland, on public transport and in pubs.

“However, there is also a far greater determination by members of the public, business people and the local police to deal with these matters as soon as they emerge.

“Sunderland people want to shake off the negative image that others have of us.

“Most people here are willing to welcome the stranger and help out those who come here to study, work or seek sanctuary.

“The best way we can demonstrate that we are a forward thinking, multicultural city is by making sure we do report and deal with racist abuse whenever we witness it.

“Racism only succeeds when good people look the other way.

“The local council also needs to take more initiative in promoting the diversity of our local cultures and take great pride in projects such as the successful Diwali celebrations in the Museum.

“I am hopeful that although racism may have increased from a small minority of people, most people in our city want an end to bigotry and intolerance.”

Southern Area Commander Chief Superintendent Ged Noble, of Northumbria Police, said: “Any crime that targets someone because of who they are is completely unacceptable and something we will not tolerate in our communities.

“We work very closely with all of our communities across Sunderland to make sure they feel safe and supported and have the confidence to come forward and speak to us about the issues they face.

“It’s simply not right that anyone puts up with being targeted because of who they are and we actively encourage anyone who has been a victim of hate crime to report this to us so we can deal with those responsible and prevent it happening again.

“Sunderland is a safe places where we have diverse communities living and working side by side peacefully but unfortunately there are a minority, and it is only a minority, who try to disrupt this, and we will make sure swift and robust action is taken against these people.

“There is no place in our region for hate crime, we will not stand-by and allow this to happen and we will be there to support and reassure all of our communities.”