The number of hate crimes reported to police in Hertfordshire has risen by 9 per cent in the last year.

There were 1,600 hate crimes recorded in the county in 2018/19 compared to 1,468 the previous year, government figures show.

But the county's leading police officer is seeing the positives in the increase in reports.

Chief Inspector Chris Treadwell says it is "welcome" to see an increase because it means victims and witnesses are having the confidence to come forward.

More than 77 per cent (1,228 offences) of hate crimes in 2018/19 in Hertfordshire were racially motivated, 11 per cent referenced someone's sexual orientation, 8 per cent were motivated by religion, 7 per cent were disability hate crimes, and 2 per cent (29) were gender motivated crimes.

Figures from 2018/19 show the number of disability hate crimes has dropped 36 per cent but hate crimes relating to religion and sexual orientation have risen 50 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.

Across the eastern region of England - six sub-regions - Hertfordshire once again recorded the second highest number of hate crime reports. Essex recorded 3,175.

Nationally, 18 regions recorded more than 1,600 offences, with 23 regions recording less than 1,600 offences.

Chief Inspector Chris Treadwell, who leads on hate crime at Hertfordshire Constabulary, said: "We know that nationally hate crimes often go unreported so an increase in the numbers of reports is welcome as it shows that more victims and witnesses are having the confidence to come forward.

"We have worked hard over recent years to make it easier to report hate crimes, such as through third party reporting centres around the county and promoting hate crime all year round."

Sexual orientation hate crime reports have risen by 45 per cent but the police force has put a lot of focus on engaging with the LGBT community.

The force has a number of trained, dedicated hate crime staff who specialise in investigating homophobic crime and supporting members of the LGBT community. The force also worked closely with the organisers of Herts Pride, which this year was held in Cassiobury Park in Watford.

Borehamwood Times:

Herts Pride 2019. Credit: Herts Police

Chief Insp Treadwell added: "We want hate crime victims to know that if they come forward we will investigate the crime sensitively and thoroughly and they can receive support from one of our specialist hate crime officers."

Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd, whose office leads the Hertfordshire Hate Crime Partnership Board, said: "Hertfordshire is a safe county but like everywhere, hate crimes can occur. We are united in Hertfordshire in our commitment to tackling hate crime and improving outcomes for victims."

Website is a place for victims to report hate crimes or incidents, anonymously if they prefer. Details are then passed on to police. The website also provides details of support.