Police in the state’s north west metro region have responded to hundreds of prejudicially-motivated crimes within a five-year period, with more than half of the offences related to a victim’s race or ethnicity.

Victoria Police data shows there were 528 “prejudicially-motivated” crimes recorded in the northwest – which covers 14 municipalities, including Wyndham, Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melton, Moonee Valley, Hume and Whittlesea – between January 2014 and December 2018.

This included 341 offences related to race/ethnicity, 121 related to religion, 111 related to sexual orientation, 94 related to political beliefs and 21 related to disability.

Brimbank’s Acting Police Inspector Terrence West said people who experienced or witnessed prejudice-motivated crime, including online crime, should report it to the police.

“Victoria Police is here to help – we do not tolerate violence and we take all crime seriously, including that which is motivated by prejudice, racism or discrimination,” he said.

Acting Inspector West said crime reports indicated that prejudice-motivated crime could occur in public places, retail environments and residential premises.

“This may include threats to kill, threats to inflict serious injury, stalking, assault, destroying or damaging property, including graffiti and threats to destroy or damage property,” he said.

“We know that crimes motivated by prejudice cause serious harm to victims, often leaving them, and their communities, feeling vulnerable, threatened and isolated.

“There is no justification for prejudice-motivated violence here in Victoria.”

Acting Inspector West said Victoria Police has a number of Multicultural Liaison Officers (MLOs) who could help victims of prejudice-based crime to make a report.

WEstjustice chief executive Denis Nelthorpe said the organisation sometimes heard from clients who were subjected to racist comments in public.

Mr Nelthorpe said while some people who committed such acts could be mentally ill or affected by drugs or alcohol, it could also occur when people were “uneducated or racist”.

Victims of racism or discrimination can contact their local police station, or triple-0 in an emergency. Any information about a crime motivated by prejudice can be reported to Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000.