An increase in racially motivated hate crimes in Hartlepool has been linked by police to Brexit and recent terror attacks.
Chief Superintendant Alastair Simpson, of Cleveland Police, told a meeting of partner agencies in Hartlepool how the Brexit campaign made people think it was acceptable to launch hate attacks.
The anonymity of social media has also contributed to a spike in cases reported to police.
But members of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership said the increase in incidents was a positive sign as one of its key aims is to encourage victims to come forward and report it.
Rachel Parker, community safety team leader for Hartlepool Borough Council, said that between September last year and August there were 167 hate incidents recorded in Hartlepool.
That is an average of 13.9 per month and is up by 17 compared to same period the previous year.
Ms Parker said “Comparable to the national picture racially motivated incidents account for the largest proportion of hate incidents in Hartlepool.
“The local authority’s community safety team continues to take a proactive approach to tackling hate with third-party reporting centres being promoted via Hartbeat and social media campaigns.
“We also support victims through the services of our victim services officer.”
Chief Superintendant Simpson added hate crime was still believed to be going unreported across the Cleveland force area.
He said: “There was a distinct rise and has been a rise in hate crime following the Brexit referendum in 2016.
“That was reflected by changes nationally where it suddenly became acceptable to post racist comments online.
“There has been spikes following particular terrorist attacks. But we’ve also seen some really good community action to try and deal with the consequences of that and come forward to name offenders.
“We are investing resources in terms of staff and effort in trying to encourage the reporting of hate crime across all aspects.
“It’s important when we talk about an increase in figures we understand some of the reasons behind it.
“We are happy to see those rises because we are still trying to increase awareness.
“Social media gives people an outlet to air those views anonymously so it contributes towards the growth in hate crime.”
The Crown Prosecution Service will be invited to a future meeting of the partnership to explain new policy statements in response to a rise nationally of hate crime.
It included a commitment to treat online crime more seriously.