POLICE officers in Cumbria say a 12 per cent rise in hate crime shows victims are more confident to report incidents.

The overall number of hate crimes reported to Cumbria Police last year was 697, compared to 622 in the previous 12 months.

Disability and age hate crimes rose by 63 per cent and 69 per cent respectively. The number of disability hate crimes rose from 71 in 2017 to 116 last year, while age-related hate crimes rose from 32 to 54.

Speaking as part of the force’s Hate Crime Awareness Week, launched yesterday, Detective Chief Inspector Craig Smith, said: “Is [the rise in crime] concerning? It depends which way we look at it.

“In view of the fact that what we are trying to do is encourage people to come forward to report crime, we perceive that to be a good thing, that the message is getting through.

“We have been working jointly with the likes of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office to encourage people to come forward and have the confidence to liaise with the police in reporting such matters to us.”

The response to a reported incident of a hate crime is multilayered, he continued.

“Following the initial call to the police, we look to dispatch an officer in person to the individual or group of individuals within the hour.

“That case is then reviewed and scrutinised by a supervisor, to ensure there is a rigorous investigation plan in place.

“That would be reviewed by an officer of the rank of inspector or above, who would make contact with the victim within seven days of that particular incident.”

The number of racist hate crimes reported to police increased from 333 in 2017 to 337 last year, while homophobic hate crime increased from 109 to 127. Transphobic hate crime numbers went up from 26 to 32.

The only category of hate crime to see a fall in numbers was religious hate crime, which fell from 51 in 2017 to 31 last year.

Det Ch Insp Smith said: “What we are trying to do is to ensure that every reasonable line of inquiry is picked up on and we can explore and maximise every opportunity that we can in and around that individual. Also, we are questioning are there particular areas, are there particular offenders, are there particular victims that are being targeted?

“Is there something we need to do in terms of a preventative measure to prevent that happening again.”

The detective chief inspector continued: “I think it (the campaign) is a sign of how seriously Cumbria Police deal with hate crime incidents. Yes it is important that we encourage people to come forward and yes it is important people have the confidence to come forward to Cumbria Police to report such matters to us.”