A LEADING campaigner has called on Asian communities and other ethnic minorities in the North-East to speak out and support a new movement against hate crime.

Sajna Ali, who works as an advisor and liaison officer, has welcomed the Hate Hurts campaign for raising awareness about hate crime and to encourage reporting.

She believes the campaign can help to persuade ethnic communities that the police will listen and take seriously any reports of hate incidents, and that discreet support is available.

Her call for support comes as Durham and Cleveland Police forces report 24 per cent of hundreds of racially or religiously aggravated offences investigated in the last 12 months were cases closed without a suspect identified.

The campaign is led by County Durham and Darlington Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Ron Hogg, who is calling on businesses, schools, churches and the public to stand united against hate crime.

Ms Ali, a Bangladeshi born and raised in Darlington, hopes that encouraging more dialogue will help build trust across communities. The BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) officer for Labour in Darlington, said: “Hate crime is real and it’s getting worse.

“What worries me is how much goes unreported by ethnic communities. There are a number of reasons for this, including the restrictions communities impose upon themselves about engaging with official organisations and drawing attention to themselves.

“It’s so important to engage. The more we talk, the more we can build confidence that the police and others are there to help us.”

She added: “Integration reduces isolation. When we meet and talk it promotes understanding because we see that we are all just human, we have the same emotions and face the same issues.

“We don’t want communities to be isolated because that plays into the hands of organisations that promote Islamophobia. If we stand up against it then we can counter any form of extremism.”

She acknowledges that hate also occurs within communities, for example, when individuals are perceived to break religious or social rules and the shame and stigma of admitting internal conflicts may stop reporting.

“In a small town like Darlington if there are perpetrators within our communities then it has to be spoken about,” added Ms Ali.

“We don’t want to make the same mistakes as the towns in Yorkshire where people didn’t tell because they feared being seen as racist.

“Crime is crime, whatever community it occurs in.”