NEARLY a third of racist hate crimes reported to Thames Valley Police went unpunished last year, according to the latest Home Office figures.

In the 12 months to September 2018, TVP made 1,666 investigations into racially and religiously-aggravated offences – 484 of which were closed without a suspect being identified.

That equates to 29% not leading to any arrest or person charged – the 7th highest proportion out of the 44 police forces across England and Wales.

The offences – all of which are defined as hate crimes – include racially or religiously aggravated assault, harassment, and criminal damage.

READ AGAIN: Latest crime stats show steep rise in Oxford racist incidents

In 2018, racially or religiously aggravated offences in Oxford saw a 40% rise from 134 to 188 compared to the previous year.

This week, there were reports of a man making 'shooting sounds’ at a Muslim woman in Oxford.

The alleged incident came after swastikas were daubed across a back wall of Cheney School at the weekend, alongside a reference thought to relate to the New Zealand shooting last week.

READ MORE: 'Man made shooting sounds' at Muslim woman on Oxford street

Oxford City councillor for Rose Hill and Iffley and founder of the Everyday Bigotry Project, Shaista Aziz, told the Oxford Mail: “The statistics today are obviously disappointing, especially in light of the increased concern people have around hate crime after what happened in New Zealand, but beyond that as well.

“If we drill down, it shows us a couple of things. For one, what the data shows is very often when people are subjected to hate crime they do not have witnesses, so they are reluctant to report the crime as they don’t think anyone is going to believe them.

“The second thing is that people often think they are just minor incidents. There are different degrees of hate crime, so people may not think it necessary to contact the police. So the issue is that hate crime is under-reported. Every police force in the country acknowledges this.

“Then when you look at the prosecution rate, which is woeful across the country, it makes people who are victims of this sort of crime think ever harder about whether they want to report it."

In November, TVP Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld called for a review of hate crime regulations, saying the 'inordinate' amount of time police spent investigating such incidents distracted from ‘real crime’.

READ MORE: 'Inordinate' amount of police time spent on 'non-crimes'

However, Aziz does acknowledge that the police have begun to treat these crimes more seriously.

“In the past, I’ve been subjected to hate crime in Oxford and I have to say none of them ended up in a prosecution but I did feel confident that the police kept me updated and they had given me as much information as they could. So that is a good thing.

“The statistics aren’t good - and potentially will deter people from reporting hate crime - but the police have gone on record multiple times saying that if you’re a victim of hate crime, report it. That is still the best thing for them to say.

“But there needs to further transparency and accountability from TVP and all police forces across the UK about why prosecutions are so low.”

Thames Valley Police did not respond to a request for comment.

The police force most likely to close investigations without identifying a suspect was Greater Manchester Police, with 46% of their recorded racially and religiously-aggravated offences.

The other highest figures were for West Midlands Police (44%), British Transport Police (37%), Northumbria (33%) and Sussex (31%).