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Last Updated: Monday, 23 May, 2005, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Race hate incidents on increase
Hugh Orde
Hugh Orde: "Some areas still causing concern"
The latest crime figures for Northern Ireland show a big increase in the number of race hate incidents reported to the police over the past year.

The number of racial incidents increased by 360, with a total of 634 such crimes recorded during 2004/05.

The figures also show a doubling of homophobic crimes with 196 incidents of anti-gay or lesbian attacks.

Overall there has been a fall in offences such as blackmail, burglaries and car thefts.

However, there has been an increase of 4% in other serious offences including dangerous driving and drugs.

The Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, has welcomed the overall drop in recorded crime of just over 7%.

Of the racial crimes, 322 were criminal damage incidents and 187 woundings or assaults. There was a clearance rate of 15.9%.

Gay rights campaigner PA MacLoughlin said the police were taking the issue of homphobic crimes seriously and moving in the right direction to tackle the problem.

He said the rise in figures was probably due to a greater willingness of victims to speak out.

"What's happening is that there are more and more of the areas in Northern Ireland where we're starting to get reporting (of homophobic attacks)," Mr McLoughlin said.

"I'd say there are very few areas left where you've not got any single incident reported."

'Safer communities'

The chief constable said he was pleased that domestic burglary and vehicle crime had fallen significantly because a recent survey showed these were the crimes people worried about most.

"Despite these significant results there is still much work to do.

"A number of areas still give us cause for concern and we will be focusing more on these in the current year," Mr Orde said.

The chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Sir Desmond Rea, said the latest figures showed that policing was working and, more importantly, "that communities were being made safer".

He congratulated the chief constable for delivering a further reduction of 7.7% in overall crime figures - meaning that crime levels in Northern Ireland were the lowest in six years.

"Clearly one of the areas of concern is in relation to the increase recorded in hate incidents and crimes; in the weeks and months ahead the Board will be asking the police how this issue is being responded to," he said.

"Through the work of the Policing Board at a Northern Ireland level and through the work of the District Policing Partnerships at a local level, we will continue to listen to what the community concerns are on policing and ensure that policing is being shaped to meet community need."

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