HATE crime has risen by almost a third across the county in 12 months.

One thousand and nine hate crimes targeting race, religion, disability and sexual orientation were reported in Sussex from April 2013 to March 2014 – compared to just 786 in the 12 months before.

However, instead of issuing concern at the findings, police chiefs have welcomed the news.

Chief Superintendent Wayne Jones, force lead for hate crime, said: “It is not often that you hear a senior police officer applauding the fact that crime has gone up, but I am pleased as it demonstrates growing trust and confidence in victims to report what is a most personal of crimes.

“However, we are not complacent. Although we see these figures as positive, we acknowledge we have much more to do to achieve a level of reporting that mirrors the full picture of hate-based harm experienced by many people across Sussex every day.”

Crimes against disability and religion shot up by around 50%, with 80 and 71 reports compared to 48 and 35 in the previous 12-month period.

Elsewhere there were 731 hate crimes targeting race, 144 against sexual orientation and 24 against transgender people.

In the previous 12 months there were just 564, 119 and 20 respectively.

The force also recorded 299 hate incidents, which is behaviour that does not constitute a criminal offence but is motivated by prejudice or hostility.

They included 37 focused on disability, 182 against race, 30 against religion, 51 against sexual orientation and 16 focusing on transgender people.

Sergeant Peter Allan, force hate crime sergeant, said more work had to be done: “We acknowledge that not everyone is comfortable reporting hate crimes to the police for a variety of reasons.

“We are working hard to increase trust and confidence of victims and to make it easier to report it directly to us.

“During the coming year we plan to continue our work with partner agencies who already take reports of hate crime to establish a network of Hate Incident Reporting Centres and Hate Crime Ambassadors in communities.”

He added: We are also developing an updated version of our online reporting form.”

Anyone who has been a victim of hate crime or has witnessed a hate crime should call police on 101 or 999 if it is an emergency. Crimes can also be reported online at www.sussex.police.uk.