Police believe that a rise in reported hate crimes across Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge reflects national trends and is ‘likely to be down to positive factors’.
Last week the force revealed that the two boroughs received more calls for hate crimes last year than in 2016.
Hate crimes are acts of hostility or violence towards someone based on a prejudice, typically towards a disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Incidents reported in Tonbridge & Malling rose from 83 in 2016 to 152 in 2017. Tunbridge Wells recorded a smaller rise from 134 to 144.
Detective Inspector Maxine Martin of Kent Police told the Times: “The increase in reports reflects a national rise and is likely to be down to positive factors.
“This includes improved recording of crime together with a greater awareness of hate crime and greater confidence amongst victims to come forward.”
Police are looking to make it easier for people to report hate crimes by launching drop-in centres and introducing a new website called True Vision.
Steve Goodsell, Southern Regional Manager for the awareness charity Show Racism the Red Card, said that with its ‘affluent and deprived areas’, Kent typically sees more reports than surrounding counties.
“There have been spikes in certain towns. Some of that is down to greater awareness, which has led more people to report it, which is positive.
“But it does show there are more incidents taking place and I do not see any signs of these decreasing.
“Some of it is because of Brexit, and there is a ramping-up of ill feeling. Some of it is to do with uncertainty – there is a lack of clear vision of what Brexit is going to mean.
“The figure for Tonbridge seems high, which could be to do with lots of factors, including a negative feeling towards immigrants.”
Aliya Mohammed, Chief Executive of the charity Race Equality First, said: “We have seen a huge increase in calls since Brexit.
“The most common reports are of racism and Islamophobia through verbal abuse.
“There has also been a rise in abuse aimed at people who are transgender.
“Every time there is a terrorist incident, we see an influx of reports of verbal abuse towards people who are Muslim.
“Awareness has been raised and that is something to be pleased about, but there has certainly been a rise,” she said, adding that the charity has taken calls from people who may previously have been unsure of approaching
“I know a German lady who said a man came up to her and made a derogatory comment just because she was speaking a different language to English. The man said because she is European she should not be here.
“But there are still a lot of people not reporting it as a hate crime because they do not feel they have proof of it happening.”