More needs to be done to tackle a spike in hate crimes in Wrexham, it has been claimed.
It comes as new figures show there has been a 25 per cent increase in the number of attacks motivated by prejudice – with 122 so far this year compared to 97 during the same period in 2017.
An equality campaigner who lives in the town believes the actual total could be higher as people are either too afraid to report it or feel nothing will be done.
Iolanda Banu Viegas, who grew up in Portugal but has called Wrexham her home for the last 17 years, said there had been a noticeable increase in hate crime since the Brexit vote and fears it will get worse when the UK leaves Europe in March.
The 44-year-old, who is a member of Race Council Cymru, is now calling for authorities to clamp down on the issue.
She said: “After Brexit I noticed that we deal with more hate crime reports. It’s very difficult. We noticed nothing much happens and the perpetrators get away with it.
“There were four incidents the day after Brexit actually and I knew it was going to carry on.
“For example, we were sitting outside the Portuguese café and there were people walking past us and shouting ‘Go home’.
“It is a very small minority of people but it happens a lot when people have been drinking.
“We’re trying our best to integrate and be friends with everybody, but if this happens we cannot just sit quietly and accept it any more.”
According to a report which will be considered by Wrexham Council next week, the level of satisfaction among victims of hate crime has dropped during the last year.
Members of the Wrexham Community Safety Partnership, which also includes North Wales Police and the Probation Service, are currently examining the statistics to understand what has caused the increase.
They said action would be taken to address the issue.
One solution put forward by Ms Viegas, who was born in Mozambique, is for awareness courses to be taught to people who carry out hate crimes, similar to the ones held for speeding.
She said: “We are a small town and I think we can do something about this.
“Reporting is not enough and sometimes sending someone to prison just because they tell someone to go back home is not the right thing to do.
“We learn from embarrassment and it’s a human thing.
“Racism is caused due to ignorance, people don’t know and they find it easier to blame someone else.
“When they blame someone else it’s very hurtful and if they were aware I believe we wouldn’t have that many crimes going on.”
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).