Does the North East of England have a problem with hate crime? If so, why? The North East has one of the lowest levels of immigration in the UK. The Non-UK born population in Northumberland is just 2% and 4% in County Durham yet Northumbria Police has reported a staggering 69% increase in recorded hate crimes since 2015.

In our region, Newcastle itself has the highest percentage of Non-UK born residents at 13%. By no means is that a large figure but if you were to walk down the West Road on any given day you would be forgiven for believing it to a lot higher. From my perspective, this is one of the most significant undercurrents behind the spike in reported crimes. The tendency of incoming migrants to settle alongside those of the same faith, background or nationality has led to the formation of what are known as ‘ghettoised communities’. It is understandable why migrants choose to settle in this way but it has serious implications for their integration into existing communities and the willingness of residents to accept incoming groups of people who seem disinterested in the established culture.

This isn’t true of all areas, but many large cities see similar effects. By virtue of not being exposed to migrants across society, the existing population can struggle to understand migrants, their backgrounds and their culture and begin to see them as ‘foreign invaders’, especially when traditionally white areas undergo rapid transformations. This lack of cooperation and mutual understanding only breeds hostility and has surely meant that Newcastle (with such a concentrated migrant population) sees a disproportionately large number of hate crimes.

There are, of course, other factors involved. The popular press often takes it upon themselves to stir up anti-immigrant sentiments. Such stories often focus on the European Migrant Crisis and a few examples of the most embattled areas of Britain to create the impression of the problem that is wider in scale than it actually is. This could be behind some of the flawed perceptions that fuel hate crime.

One thing is clear; our politicians desperately need to do more to improve integration into our communities and encourage migrants to settle across larger geographical areas. There is a way to lessen the negative impacts of migration – and bring out the positive aspects – through good management and strong leadership.

Who dares step up?