As the nation reacts to the racist abuse suffered by three of England's footballers, analysis of the latest figures reveals how racial hate crime increased in Bedfordshire in the four years before the coronavirus pandemic.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all received online racist abuse after missing penalties in the Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy on Sunday night.
The comments have prompted a police investigation and widespread condemnation, including from England's manager Gareth Southgate, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince William.
Charity Victim Support said it was "appalled" by the abuse, and added that it followed a rise in reported race hate crime nationally during the pandemic.
Home Office data reveals a record number of race hate crimes were recorded by police forces in England and Wales in 2019-20 – the latest available figures.
Bedfordshire Police recorded 963 crimes during the period – an increase of 88 per cent compared to 2015-16, when 513 incidents were reported.
Across England and Wales, police recorded 76,070 racial hate crimes in 2019-20 – the equivalent of more than 200 a day, and the highest number since comparable records began in 2011-12.
The figure, which did not include data from Greater Manchester Police, was a six per cent rise from 72,041 in 2018-19, and up by two-thirds from 2015-16, when 45,440 were reported.
The rise was partly down to improvements in recording and an awareness of hate crime, the Home Office said.
It also said events like the EU referendum in 2016 and terrorist attacks in 2017 were likely to have had an impact.
But Victim Support said other factors, such as the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in America last year, had driven a further increase in reports.
The charity said it was "extremely saddened and appalled" by the abuse suffered by the three England football players following Sunday's match.
Jo Parks, services director, said: "We’ve been concerned to see rising reports of race hate crime throughout the pandemic and have seen significant increases in the number of victims coming to us for support.
"These hate crimes have had a damaging impact on victims' safety and sense of self-worth, which can take years to re-build."
In the wake of the racist abuse of the England footballers, home secretary Priti Patel is now urging social media firms to take tougher action over racism ahead.
She said: "Racist abuse is utterly unacceptable and illegal, whether it takes place on or offline – those individuals who commit racist offences should rightly face the full force of the law."
The incident has also seen a fresh wave of support for model Katie Price's online petition aimed at making it more difficult for online trolls to be anonymous.
The petition – which now has more than 660,000 signatures – wants to make it a legal requirement for anyone opening a new social media account to provide a verified form of ID.
As of around 11am toay (Wednesday), 66,061 people from across the East of England had lent their names to the petition.
It was launched following abuse directed at Ms Price's son, Harvey.