IN terms of raw statistics, hate crime might not seem too much of an issue in County Durham and Darlington.

There were 517 hate crimes recorded by the region’s police force in the 12 months to March 2018, a rise of almost 25 per cent from the previous year, but still a relatively low number compared to other categories of crime.

However, because of its personal nature and the way in which it tends to involve vulnerable individuals, hate crime – defined as “criminal behaviours committed against someone because of their disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or some other perceived difference – is often unreported.

The true extent of the problem in our region is likely to be much greater than the official statistics suggest, therefore we wholeheartedly support the new ‘Hate Hurts’ initiative which is being launched today by Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington.

As Mr Hogg explains in today’s Northern Echo, hate crime is an insidious offence that has the potential to cause long-lasting harm to its victims. It can also cause substantial damage to community relations, turning one group of society against another.

Victims of hate crime are being encouraged to report any incidents, while police officers will work with communities and businesses to promote inclusion.

Hopefully, the Hate Hurts initiative will help bring hate crime into the open. That is the best way of ensuring it can be tackled effectively.