Police have moved to reassure residents after concerns Isis attacks in Paris have stirred up racial tensions in South Tyneside.
Superintendent Sav Patsalos has spoken out after a suspected arson attack on a car wash on Tuesday.
Yobs also sprayed graffiti around the site of Bubbles car wash in Winskell Road, South Shields, next to Simonside Social Club, some of which implied the business funded ISIS – the terrorist organisation responsible for the deaths of 130 people in Paris earlier this month.
Northumbria Police has said there have been four reported race-hate crimes in the borough since the night of the terror attack, but said Tuesday’s arson in South Shields is not believed to have any links to France.
Superintendent Patsalos said: “We recognise some members of our communities may be concerned and may be fearful of recriminations, and we want to offer them reassurance that we will do everything we can to offer them support.
“Since the attacks in Paris we have been alert to any reports of hate crime and whether or not they are linked in any way to the attacks. On Tuesday, a car wash was set on fire in South Shields and while there was graffiti that caused concern at the premises, we do not believe it is linked in any way to the events in Paris.
We do not believe it’s linked to the events in ParisSuperintendant Patsalos
“South Tyneside has vast and diverse communities across the borough, who live alongside each other peacefully and on the whole work together very well. We take any reports of those who disrupt this – for any reason – very seriously and ensure these individuals are dealt with.”
Members of the town’s Muslim community have claimed they believe there has been a change of attitude towards the faith since the attacks – with some women fearful of going out alone.
Superintendent Patsalos is also urging people to get in touch if they are feeling fearful.
He said: “If anyone has been a victim of hate crime or feels fearful in anyway that they may be targeted because of who they are, we would urge them to speak to us – or, if they don’t wish to speak to police, they can contact a Safe Reporting Centre.
“We do not want our communities to be scared and feel they cannot go about their daily lives in any way.”
Coun Tracey Dixon, chairwoman of the community safety partnership, also pledged to help any victims.
She said: “It is a matter of concern that some of our residents are feeling fearful and concerned.
“Abuse based on prejudice and discrimination leaves victims feeling belittled and frightened. It will not be tolerated in our communities.
“We will continue to offer as much support to victims of hate crime as possible and continue to work with our partners to stamp out this crime and encourage any victims to report any incidents to the police.”