Racist attacks 'every day' in East End

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Tower Hamlets witnessed racist attacks at the rate of more than one every day last year, police have disclosed. The attacks came to a head in the autumn prior to the election of Derek Beackon, the British National Party candidate who held the Millwall ward for eight months.

Several attacks have centred on the Poplar Recreation Ground - a favourite meeting place for young Asians attending Tower Hamlets Sixth Form College.

Last month two Bangladeshi men were attacked by a gang of youths near Poplar High Street who stabbed one and beat another.

Chief Inspector Dai James, the borough's community liaison officer, said out of 375 racial incidents, 176 were assaults, the remainder involving the painting of offensive graffiti, damage to property and verbal abuse.

Figures for the whole of the Metropolitan Police's Two Area, which also covers Hackney, Newham, Havering, and Barking and Dagenham, showed that 419 people were assaulted during 1993 as a result of racial hatred, and 950 incidents of racial harassment were recorded.

However, Chief Inspector James emphasised that these were only recorded crimes and said actual figures would be higher still. 'We know these are quite high, but we also know there is a large amount of under-reporting of these attacks,' he said.

The level of racially-motivated violence has prompted councillors in Tower Hamlets to launch a major drive to stamp it out. The council has told its committees to come up with a package of improvements which will offer more support to victims and better protection to those who believe they are at risk.

Among the measures proposed are the extension of a borough-wide telephone hotline to victims of racial harassment - as well as the elderly for whom it currently serves as an emergency link - and the introduction of a 16-point equal opportunities statement to rid the borough of all forms of discrimination.

In addition, the council proposes a review of its policy on racial incidents in schools and colleges to ensure swift responses to attacks, and to focus on the borough's housing service to ensure that perpetrators of racial attacks are evicted.

Chief Inspector James said that stemming the flow of racist attacks in the East End was a top priority for the police and an issue which his officers took seriously.

The council's plans come after a recent plea from Arthur Downes, the borough's mayor, who said it was high time to 'shake off the tarnished image of an area plagued by race hatred'.

John Biggs, the leader of the council, said the proposals were only the beginning of a process destined to 'send a clear message to anyone that in any way harasses a fellow resident because of the colour of their skin'.

All committees will meet over the next month to discuss the antiharassment plans which should be implemented later this year.

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