Greenwich police have announced they will hold a 'surgery' for victims of homophobic abuse and attacks at the Rose and Crown pub on Croom’s Hill on the last Friday of every month, beginning 24 June.
It's hoped the new sessions will encourage people to come forward to report crimes in confidence. Leaflets, advice and support will also be on offer and a local LGBT liaison officer who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Officers also hope to turn around the image of the police as indifferent or even hostile to those abused because of their sexuality. Detective Constable Stephen Proctor told reporters that:
“All officers involved fully understand the issues faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community across London."
About time, some might say, with the number of homophobic crimes on the rise in London, according to figures published this spring, with 1,545 incidents reported to officers in the capital last year - up from 1,208 four years ago. This year, the number of incidents so far has already outstripped the figure for the whole of 2009/2010 in nine boroughs, including Westminster, Lambeth and Islington.
The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, introduced last year, created a new criminal offence to outlaw threatening behaviour or materials intended to stir up hatred against people on grounds of their sexual orientation. However a recent YouGov poll commissioned by Stonewall found one in five lesbians, gay men and bisexuals have been a victim of a hate crime or incident in the past three years. Three in four victims in London did not report it to the police.
So is the move by Greenwich police too little, too late – or a welcome step in the right direction?