UNCERTAINTY about Britain’s exit from the European Union has resulted in a five-fold increase in racially aggravated hate crime in Barnsley, according to police bosses in the town.

According to statistics, reported crimes in Barnsley have averaged between 200 and 250 per year since 2012 – figures thought to be low due to victims’ reluctance to report incidents – although police recorded a marked rise in the last year.

The ongoing Brexit saga has been identified as a cause by bosses of a hate crime prevention unit, spearheaded by Superintendent Sarah Poolman, who is responsible for local policing in Barnsley.

“We are continuing to monitor and record all reports of hate crime,” a report said.

“The uncertainty surrounding Brexit is an area where we are unsure of the impact this will have on racial hate crime levels going forward.

“There were some spikes in hate crime noticed after previous Brexit announcements.

“Working closely with our partners we have established a hate crime scrutiny panel with the aim of ensuring community representatives have the opportunity to review investigations, identify good practice and raise matters where there are concerns regarding the way in which the investigations were carried out.

“This will enable us to continually improve the manner in which we deal with hate crime, leading to improved service to local communities."

There are now seven third-party reporting centres in Barnsley, which police are working alongside to help residents who have been targeted.

It comes after the Barnsley Community Safety Partnership, which is made up of the council, police, fire service, NHS and Berneslai Homes, began working on hate crime in 2014 before a police-led campaign, Hate Hurts, was recently re-launched.

Supt Poolman said: “We want to know about hate crime so police and our partners are better able to tackle all of its forms.

“We are aware it is still under-reported and for us to be able to continue to take action, we need both victims and witnesses to report it.

“I would like to assure everyone that we will take all reports seriously and will do our best to support you and others that may be affected by this.

“The Hate Hurts campaign highlights how crime makes people feel and reiterates that no-one should have to live with fear, anxiety or consequences of hate.

“I would please urge anyone, whether you are a victim or a witness, to report it and help us put a stop to it.”