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UK police say hate crime reports are up 57 percent after Brexit vote

Vans displaying the United Kingdom Independence Party's new EU referendum campaign poster are driven around Parliament Square on June 16, 2016, in London, England.
Vans displaying the United Kingdom Independence Party's new EU referendum campaign poster are driven around Parliament Square on June 16, 2016, in London, England.
Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The number of hate crimes reported to the UK police’s online registering site has risen 57 percent in the wake of the Brexit referendum, according to the country’s National Police Chiefs’ Council.

From Thursday, June 23 — the day of the referendum vote — to Sunday, June 26, there were 85 reports of hate crimes made to the country’s True Vision reporting system, compared to just 54 reports in the corresponding four-day period one month ago.

True Vision defines hate crimes as "any crimes that are targeted at a person because of hostility or prejudice towards that person’s disability, race or ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, or transgender identity."

This news comes a day after London Mayor Sadiq Khan placed the country’s largest police force on a heightened security alert following the country’s decision to leave the European Union. "I’ve asked our police to be extra vigilant for any rise in cases of hate crime," Khan told the Press Association on Monday, "And I’m calling on all Londoners to pull together and rally behind this great city."

The National Police Chiefs’ Council did not provide any information on the demographic breakdown of the reported victims, but targets of recent alleged hate crimes have been a diverse group. Yesterday alone local UK media outlets reported property damage at a Halal butcher, a swastika drawn on a Northern Ireland home, and a verbal assault against a black man on a Manchester bus. In addition, earlier in the week, the Polish Embassy in London released a statement expressing "shock" and "concern" over the increase in reported incidents targeting the Polish community.

Social media outlets have been at the forefront of reporting on and spreading the word about potentially racially motivated crimes. The Muslim Council of Britain has compiled a Facebook album chronicling over 100 alleged hate incidents since last Friday, when the Brexit decision was announced. The hashtag #PostRefRacism began trending on Twitter after the vote, flooding the site with self-reported accounts of xenophobic activity.

As Vox’s Zack Beauchamp has argued, the UK’s campaign to exit the European Union was largely driven by anti-immigrant posturing and naked appeals to British nativism. However, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the National Police Chiefs’ council lead for hate crime, argues that the observed spike in hate incidents is not particularly unusual given the magnitude of the Brexit decision, and that it may soon subside.

The NPCC statement quotes Hamilton as saying that the increase in reported hate crimes "is similar to the trends following other major national or international events. In previous instances, crime levels returned to normal relatively quickly but we are monitoring the situation closely."

Similarly, Rose Simkins, chief executive of Stop Hate UK, a UK charity that provides assistance to hate crime victims, told the Independent that hate crimes are generally underreported in the first place, but that the rising tide of awareness may be prompting victims to speak up.

"We are talking to people who have never been targeted before and are now experiencing nasty abuse or people who have been but they have never reported before and are doing so now out of fear and because the frequency or the intensity of the abuse is increasing," Simkins said.

Whatever the causes, UK advocacy groups and governmental officials say they are taking the situation very seriously. Late yesterday, Amnesty International UK announced that it is launching a new campaign to combat the rise in hate crimes in the United Kingdom.