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Thursday, May 6, 1999 Published at 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK


Police tackle race hate 'upsurge'

Thousands of racist threats have been issued in recent months

Scotland Yard has set up a task force to tackle a "huge upsurge" in racist threats, the BBC has learned.

An initiative involving a number of the Metropolitan Police's elite intelligence and anti-terrorist squads has been put in place to fight the growing problem.

The last month has seen a 330% increase in the number of threatening or abusive racist letters sent in London, some 2077 incidents.

[ image: The Met's Denis O'Connor:
The Met's Denis O'Connor: "Threats are serious"
The Metropolitan Police's assistant commissioner, Denis O'Connor, told the BBC: "A giant task force comprising SO13 - our anti-terrorist squad - John Grieve's Racial and Violent Crime Task Force, together with our organised crime group and our special branch are coming together to deal with the enormous upsurge in race hate mail.

"Our intelligence on racial matters has gone up over 900% in the last couple of months.

"This is unprecedented, and it's made up of substantive issues, it's not fluff.

"It's made up of everything from graffiti to threats to individuals to intelligence from informants."

Threats of violence

One of the organistions being targeted by racists is the Commission for Racial Equality.

The CRE's Chris Myant said: "We have had some very unpleasant letters, often directed to named members of staff.

"Someone has looked for their names and thought how can I frighten and intimidate this person.

"We've been sent letters with some very unpleasant racist epithets and often expressions of a desire to commit acts of violence."

Scotland Yard has increased its race intelligence operation ten-fold since August, with a 350% increase in the number of incidents cleared up.

Much of the increase in racist threats is believed to have come about as a reaction to the inquiry into the racist murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Mike Franklin, of the Lambeth Police Consultative group, said the rise in racist threats was "a predictable response to the amount of publicity there has been over the last few months about the issue of race and racism".

He said: "Many people see hate mail as being a minor part of the whole issue of racism.

"But it is an extremely important indicator of how the climate is developing in this country."

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