Police forces across the UK are preparing for a rise in hate crimes when Prime Minister Theresa May initiates the process of leaving the European Union.
The number of racially and religiously-motivated crimes increased dramatically last year following the June referendum on Brexit.
Law enforcement authorities are now ramping up intelligence gathering in vulnerable communities in anticipation of a similar spike in crimes once the Brexit talks with Brussels get underway, The Independent reported.
The Metropolitan Police, the UK’s largest force, said it was offering increased protection to reassure potential victims of racism and xenophobia.
“Where we identify a possible trigger event that could result in more hate crime, we instigate a community engagement plan to ensure those in communities who may be victims of hate crime know that we will not tolerate this kind of crime and that we encourage them to report this to the police,” a spokeswoman said.
Community groups representing EU nationals in Britain have also warned about a possible backlash over Brexit.
Prime Minister May has vowed to trigger the negotiations by the end of March, starting two years of talks with the EU over the terms of the country’s exit.
Lawmakers in the House of Commons overwhelmingly backed a bill on Wednesday, enabling May to officially trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty next month.
Official statistics show that hate crimes soared by more than 40 percent after last year’s Brexit referendum in the UK.