Police chiefs are preparing for a spike in hate crime after Brexit is formally triggered by Theresa May this spring.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) told The Huffington Post UK that it had increased its resourcing and intelligence-gathering ahead of a possible rise in attacks against European citizens once the process of quitting the EU starts in late March.
The NPCC revealed it had met foreign embassy staff in Britain and abroad, as well as community groups, as part of its planning.
Hate crimes surged in the month following the UK’s vote to leave the EU last June, with a 41% increase in reports to the police, compared to the previous year.
The Prime Minister has said she will trigger the formal Article 50 Brexit process by the end of March and this week Britain’s equalities chief spoke of his fears of another wave of xenophobic attacks.
The NPCC, which replaced the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in 2015, coordinates police constables and their senior staff in forces across the UK.
Asked if the police were making extra preparations for hate crimes surrounding the Article 50 date, its spokesman told HuffPost UK: “We know that national and global events have the potential to trigger short-terms rises in hate crime and we saw this following the EU Referendum last year.
“While reporting has now returned to near-expected levels, the National Police Chiefs’ Council is continuing to work with partners and civil society groups to better understand these trends, and put measures in place to mitigate them and reduce tension.”
“Our chief officer lead has also asked for enhanced data returns from police forces, commissioned new resources and met with embassy staff both here and overseas.”
The NPPC said that among the new resources it had commissioned was a project with a non-profit film making group “to produce videos that will be easily translated into multiple languages and raise awareness of hate crime, encourage reporting and promote the core values of cohesion and good relations”.
Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman David Isaac told MPs on Wednesday that he was “hugely concerned” about a potential rise in attacks once Article 50 was triggered.
Despite criticism from some Tory MPs of his remarks, Downing Street insisted this week that the equalities chief had made a “useful contribution to the debate”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman said: “We have been very clear that we want to continue to be an open tolerant nation. That where there is hate crime, we should stand up to it, call it out and take action and make very clear it is not acceptable in this country.”
Joanna Mludzinska, a Polish community leader, also warned last week that a “wave” of hate crimes against European migrants could follow the start of Britain’s exit from the EU.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary has been crystal clear that hatred has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone. The action this Government is taking is working and more victims are finding the confidence to come forward to report these crimes.
“Our hate crime laws are among the best in the world and our Hate Crime Action Plan sets out how we are further reducing hate crime, increasing reporting and improving support for victims.”