Racial hatred is still a "hidden crime" because too few victims report offences to the police, the West Midlands' most senior lawyer said yesterday.
David Blundell, Chief Crown Prosecutor, said the number of race hate crimes heard in court was a fraction of those that took place.
But he said that more were reported now than had been several years ago because public confidence in the police had increased.
Speaking at a conference in Birmingham organised by West Midlands Criminal Justice Board on race hate crime, Mr Blundell said: "I don't think that every victim of a race hate crime has reported offence they were subjected to.
"We have just hit the tip of the iceberg. This is still a hidden crime.
"We have a very long way to go in the West Midlands and nationally. I just sense that the level of race hate crime is higher than the cases we see in courts show.
"However, people are getting more confident about reporting cases of racial hatred. Previously they have perhaps thought that the police were not interested.
"Nowadays there is a better understanding of what race hate crime is, the extent of it and a willingness to discuss it.
"We have gone from silent embarrassment to openly discussing the problem. Nationally and locally we used to hope that race problems would go away because they weren't understood.
"There was a lot of self denial. Witnesses and victims were not given information on the progress of their cases. We took them for granted.
"But that has all changed. There is now a willingness to recognise the problem and to do something about it. We acknowledged the problem and are looking at the solution."
Mr Blundell told the conference that one method of tackling race hate crime was for the West Midlands' criminal justice system to work with community groups which supported victims.
He said: "We can give the groups information about the criminal justice system and they can show us how they deal with victims. There are many such groups, in ethnic communities and from churches for example, but we haven't linked up yet."
Mr Blundell wants magistrates to spell out to the court that part of a sentence is punishment for racial abuse.
He said: "The courts need to be seen to treat racially aggravated offences particularly seriously."
Neville, from Coventry, who turned to street robbery after being a victim of race hate crime, told the conference he believed racial hatred needed to be tackled in homes, schools and in projects for young offenders.
The 19-year-old said: "I was bullied at school because I was mixed race. I ended up offending, but having taken out of the community, I'm now determined to give back.
"Everyone who goes to jail automatically thinks they haven't got a talent. Then they go to a project for young offenders like The 8 Project in Coventry and they are told that they are good at art, music or some activity.
"Their confidence builds and they realise they can make something of their lives." nAnyone who is a victim of a race hate crime or has information on one can call police on 0845 113 5000.