A RISE in racially aggravated offences has been blamed on a “Woolwich effect” after the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby by Islamic extremists.

Racist incidents have shot up by more than half – from 47 in a six-month period in 2012, to 72 this year – after the soldier was murdered in London in May.

Ahmad Khwaja, chairman of Southend Ethnic Minority Forum, said: “The ethnic community in Southend has been very worried since the Woolwich incident.

“When it happened, black and ethnic minority communities across the country knew organisations like the EDL would try to make political capital from it.”

Chief Insp Matt Bennett, district commander for Southend, said: “We have had a massive reaction to the Woolwich incident, which has pushed things up.

“We are also encouraging people to come forward.”

Mr Khwaja, who as a member of Essex Independent Advisory Group advises the police, questioned whether there was a direct link between the incident and the rise.

He said: “It’s very difficult to put it down to one incident. This has been going on for some time.”

Police have solved 45 per cent of the incidents up to August. Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston has welcomed the rise as a sign that trust in police is growing among hard to reach communities.