Published Monday, 19 May 2014
Police have said there has been an upsurge in racist attacks. (© UTV)
Graffiti was sprayed on homes in the south of the city over the weekend and in one shocking incident last month a Romanian cyclist had faeces thrown at him as he travelled along the Newtownards Road.
Both incidents, police said, are being treated as hate crimes.
According to PSNI annual crime figures, in the past year there has been a 30% increase in racist incidents, with the vast majority of attacks taking place in Belfast.
On Monday police said the UVF was behind "some" of the attacks, but not all and they were carrying out a "campaign of attrition" against the paramilitary organisation and other groups.
In the wake of the incidents, police established Operation Reiner in order to tackle the upsurge in attacks.
A team of 10 detectives has been put together to coordinate and piece together the PSNI's investigation.
As part of that operation police have set up a dedicated phone line for people to contact investigating officers about racist attacks.
It can be reached through the new non-emergency number 101 and the service is available in 50 different languages.
This is an issue that we need to take seriously and we need to start to do something about it in providing a long-term solution to the problems of racism within Northern Irish society.
ACC Will Kerr
Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said: "This was an operational response to the upsurge in racist hate crimes across the city of Belfast.
"We are still in the early stages of Operation Reiner and whilst the tempo will pick up over the next couple of weeks we realise that an operation like this can only ever be as successful as the information we get from the public.
"This is about making victims feel confident and comfortable in contacting their police service and passing on information."
The senior police officer added: "Any difference to these thugs appears to be their justification and it is very insidious.
"It is not realistic - and nor should we have to - to put a police officer on every street corner.
"So we need the community to act as our eyes and ears to make sure members of minority ethnic communities feel protected.
"Police will play a full part, but we can't arrest our way out of this problem. This is just one of the many issues the new Northern Ireland will have to get to grips with.
"We need a joined up response to this issue from politics, policing and broader civic society."
Justice Minister David Ford welcomed the PSNI's dedicated telephone line during question time in the assembly.
He said: "I have given a commitment, through the Community Safety Strategy, that the Criminal Justice System will tackle hate crime and the harm it causes.
"In relation to recent racist attacks, I have discussed the increase with the Chief Constable and met with the Secretary of State and senior police officers last week regarding action being taken."
Honorary Polish Consulate for Northern Ireland Jerome Mullen said he hoped the new phone line would make a difference.
"I think there is a big element of sectarianism in all of this and I think there is a great fear in all of this as well, so I think we haven't left the past behind us yet and that's the big issue," he commented.
Local community worker Kasia Garbel said the police need to work with the community to build trust for the initiative to work.
She said: "I think they need to show that they're prosecuting in order for the community to build trust with police because if they are not seen to be doing anything, then nobody will pick up the phone."
© UTV News