The number of reported crimes in Northern Ireland with a racist or homophobic motive has nearly doubled over the past year, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said Monday.
In its annual report on crime trends, the police said the overall rate of reported crimes fell 7.7% in the 12-month period ending in March 2005. But crimes motivated by bigotry against minority groups, chiefly Asians and gays, soared.
The report said the number of racially motivated crimes, mostly taunts and assaults, rose to 813 in the 2004-2005 period. The figure for 2003-2004 was 453, while in 2002-2003 it was 226. Crimes involving an antigay motive rose to 196, compared with 71 in 2003-2004 and 35 in 2002-2003.
Police cautioned that the statistical rises reflected, in part, their own increasing focus on investigating such crimes. The police traditionally concentrated on combating the activities of Northern Ireland's rival paramilitary groups, such as the Irish Republican Army, but most of those groups have been observing cease-fires since the mid 1990s.
Immigration into Northern Ireland has also significantly increased over the past decade, although the most recent census data still records the province's 1.7 million residents as 99% white. (AP)