Reporting is only way to stop nastiness in our midst

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We always suspected that those with racist tendencies would come out of the woodwork in the aftermath of the highly-charged Brexit vote.

Here at last was an excuse for them to peddle their prejudices and to use the referendum result to somehow justify a deep-seated xenophobia and a belief that immigrants were damaging ‘their’ country.

So it was no great surprise when we reported in the wake of the vote that racist graffiti referring to Polish people had been sprayed on a wall near the war memorial at Guildhall Square in Portsmouth.

Well, now we know this was no isolated incident.

Fresh crime statistics show that in the three months after the Brexit vote on June 23 last year, 463 hate crimes were reported in the county – 33 per cent up on the preceding three months.

Across England and Wales, 33 out of 44 forces recorded the highest quarterly number of hate crimes since comparable records began in April 2012, including Hampshire police.

It certainly suggests that feelings were running high and that, as the Equality and Human Rights Commission says, some people used the Brexit vote ‘to legitimise inexcusable racism and prejudice’.

But the figures can never tell the whole story.

How many others suffered abuse, harassment and intimidation, but never reported it for fear of reprisals?

In our story on page five, Jayda Khan, secretary of Portsmouth Bengali Association, talks of young people being racially abused in the street.

She explains: ‘Those figures are probably not as accurate as they should be – in our experience a lot of people don’t report it.’

And therein lies the problem. If it isn’t reported, then those responsible will be tempted to carry on doing it.

We agree with charity Victim Support, which says more needs to be done to encourage victims of hate crime to come forward. Because that is the only way to stop this nastiness in our midst.