The sharp increase in reported hate crimes across the country since the Brexit vote is “simply unnacceptable”, according to the Harrogate Independent Advisory Group (IAG).
More than 6,000 hate crimes have been reported to police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the wake of the EU referendum.
Such incidents have been significant lower across North Yorkshire compared to other policing forces across the country but a small number of similar vile reports have been made in Harrogate.
In July, a Starbeck shop owner was racially abused as he worked outside his shop and Jo Sharpe, chair of the IAG, said she is “concerned” by the current climate
She said: “We are a welcoming county, we are a welcoming community and for people to think it’s reasonable to marginalise those they see as different is completely unacceptable.
“At one of our most recent IAG meetings, a gentleman representing one of the Eastern European communities said some six or seven-year-old children in a playground asked when he was going home.
“Someone who works housing professional couples has a client from southern Europe. They are both lecturers at a Yorkshire university, been working here for six years and they were asked the same question.
“I think that kind of behaviour is simply unacceptable and it shows a very unintelligent view on life.”
The IAG works closely with North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, to “dissuade and otherwise prevent hate crime”.
Following the referendum, Mrs Mulligan joined forces with Sir Gary Verity to warn that hate crime would not be tolerated across the county.
The pair stressed that North Yorkshire remained a “welcoming place” but the IAG chair explained that the Brexit vote was threatening to disrupt this.
She said: “One of the key messages we got out of Brexit was that people wanted their country back but what does this mean?
“I’m English and I’m proud to be English. I was born in the country but my grandfather came over from Germany in 1912. So who is an immigrant and who is naturally English?
“The most important job we have now is education. When society as a whole says that behaviour is unacceptable then the people who engage in this behaviour will also become acceptable.”
The main type of offence reported since the EU referendum has been “violence against the person” which includes harassment and common assault, as well as verbal abuse, spitting and barging.
However, Ms Sharpe warned that these incidents could soon escalate and stressed that all instances of hate crime must be reported to police.
She said: “If we look at history we see that people who get away with’ banter’ then think they can graduate on to minor violence and then major violence.
I don’t want to be part of that society and I’ll do what I can to make sure it doesn’t happen here.
“Anybody that is a victim of hate crime through our sexuality, nationality, the colour of our skin, whether we use a wheelchair, whether we have learning difficulties, needs to report this and trust on the police to act on it.
“In that way the message will get out that this won’t be tolerated.”