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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Racist crime rises 50% in a year
Racist crimes in Cornwall have increased by 50% in the last year, according to police figures.

The number of racial assaults and harassment incidents increased from 81 between April 2002 to March 2003 to 122 between 2003 and 2004.

Although the number of reports has increased, so too have the numbers of prosecutions and convictions.

The number of people prosecuted went up from 33 to 68 and the number of convictions increased from 18 to 50.

It is an overwhelming problem that there is a denial of racism in the first place
John McKenzie, The Monitoring Group
According to the 2001 census, less than 1% of the county's population is from an ethnic minority.

John McKenzie from the Monitoring Group, which runs a rural racism project, said of the latest statistics: "I'm not surprised by these figures, but I'm shocked by them.

"It is an overwhelming problem that there is a denial of racism in the first place. We're concerned about what public authorities are doing about this."

Bernie Delord, from north Cornwall, was born in Zanzibar and has lived in the county for 40 years.

She said: "I think the majority of people are great in the whole time I've lived here.

"But I think I am treated differently wherever I go. At some meetings I've had to go to people have thought I was the tea woman.

"I think it's a matter of education and training."

Emma, from Truro, is white but is part of a mixed race family.

She said of one incident: "Another child stood outside the house and called my daughter names.

"But we took the sensible approach and discussed it with the other family there and then and we've had no further problems."

Taken seriously

One housing association has taken steps to tackle discrimination.

Pete Jarman of Carrick Housing said: "We've laid down procedures and policies on who to deal with racial harassment and hate crimes.

"They've been in place for a about a year now and seem to be working OK.

"We would certainly encourage people who are experiencing such problems to come forward and report it to ourselves and the police so we can tackle it.

Devon and Cornwall Police said all incidents of racism were taken seriously and that everything was done to bring offenders to justice.

The force said people who reported such incidents would be treated with sensitivity and complaints would be investigated thoroughly.

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