Evening Chronicle by Kim Carmichael | Monday, 30 April 2012 | Click here for original article
Hidden race hate crimes involving “home-grown neo-nazis” are on the increase in the North East, according to a leading academic.
Researchers said they have discovered a “growing attitude of intolerance and violence” in the region and expressed fears over the growing scale of the problem.
The warning comes as a 29-year-old was arrested a week ago over allegations he threatened an Oslo-style bomb attack on Muslims in South Shields.
Just days earlier, anti-terror police arrested two men over the posting of alleged racist postings online.
Dr Bankole Cole, a reader in criminology at Northumbria University, has researched the topic of racial hatred in the North East for the Ministry of Justice and the Northumbria Local Criminal Justice Board.
Dr Cole said: “Racial hatred is a serious issue. My colleagues and I have researched racism in the North East and what we’ve found is that there has been an increase, although we did not compare our data with other counties, so we cannot say whether the problem in the North East is bigger than that in other counties.
“Some people think there is no racism here as you don’t hear so much about it, but there is a problem.
“Statistics from the North East show it’s often against the Asian community rather than blacks. There are some predominantly young, male home-grown neo-nazis.
“In the North East there has always been a big population of immigrants. We’ve always lived with people of other ethnicity and yet these race hate crimes are happening more. I think there’s a growing attitude of intolerance and violence, which can manifest itself in this way.
“The internet is the medium that many use and I’m happy that the police are moving into that area and they should be commended.” Officers from the North East Counter Terrorism Unit carried out synchronised raids at houses in North Tyneside and County Durham 10 days ago.
They took 43-year-old Darren Yateley, of Backworth, North Tyneside, and 46-year-old Paul Duffy, from Elgin Avenue, Seaham, County Durham, to local police stations for questioning.
Yateley and Duffy have been released on police bail pending further inquires.
The online posts allegedly related to posts on social network sites that could provoke racial hatred.
Dr Lee Barron, from Northumbria University, is an expert in online behaviour.
He said: “I think there’s this notion where, if you are online, you are protected. People think they can hide behind the internet but of course they can’t as they are easily traceable.
“If you look at the way Facebook and Twitter have developed, it’s like the old-fashioned ‘dear diary’, except that now it’s like putting it in the street on a billboard. There are people who just don’t see their online behaviour as real life and post extremely offensive material.”
Last week’s arrests were part of nationwide raids which involved police strikes from the North East to London.
The suspects are being linked with a splinter group of the English Defence League, known as the North West Infidels.
Searches were made at each of the houses and police recovered a range of items, including computers, laptops and mobile phones.
In November 2010, a race row broke out in Newcastle’s West End after a pig’s head was hung on the gates of a planned Islamic school and cultural centre.
It happened at the former Bishop’s Palace in Benwell, Newcastle, which was later a pub called the Mitre, and also starred as the youth club in the hit BBC TV children’s drama Byker Grove.
A month earlier, seven men were arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred after a gang of masked men filmed themselves setting fire to the Koran, the Islamic holy book, in the backyard of the Bugle pub in Leam Lane, Felling, Gateshead, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The footage was posted on the internet.
However, the Crown Prosecution Service later said there was insufficient evidence to press charges.
Hari Shukla, vice chairman of the Newcastle Council of Faiths, said: “The North East has a good record of good race relations.
“There’s plenty of understanding and also commitment among people to build a very stable, multi-racial society.
“It’s small elements like this that cause a lot of damage to what has been created over a period of some 40 years and much hard work.”
Chief Inspector Steve Hails, of Newcastle Area Command, said: “There is no place for any sort of racial abuse or use of social networking to place inappropriate comments.
“People should be aware we take any reports we receive very seriously and will carry out a full and thorough investigation to identify those responsible.”