August 23 2014 Latest news:
Francesca Elliott, Reporter
Friday, January 10, 2014
Police who patrol Redbridge’s top outdoor sex spots have seen an increase in reports of homophobically aggravated crimes.
A record number of crimes against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community were reported in Redbridge in 2013, which police attribute to an increase in victim confidence in the police.
Police began the patrols to encourage victims of homophobic crimes to report them in the knowledge they would be fully investigated.
Last year, 22 crimes identified as being homophobically aggravated, such as blackmail, assault, harassment and criminal damage, were committed, up from 17 in 2012 and 11 in 2011.
To combat this, police have been visiting sites across the borough identified as PSEs, or Public Sex Environments, to warn people frequenting these places for sex, that they are vulnerable to crime.
Along with outreach workers from HIV charity Positive East, plain clothes and uniformed officers patrol sites known to be PSEs, including Barley Lane recreation ground; Goodmayes Park; South Park; Melbourne Fields in Valentines Park; Fairlop Waters and Eastwood Close in South Woodford.
Pc Anton Brown, an LGBT liaison officer for Redbridge, said: “Thefts, robberies, rape and other violent assaults take place at these locations and victims are scared to report them as they do not want to be ‘outed’. They are often men who have sex with men but don’t necessarily identify as being gay.”
While sex in a public place is illegal, in most cases police do not arrest the men as long as they have not engaged in sexual activity in public view.
“We approach people loitering, not engaging in sex, unless they are doing it in a very open area or we have received reports from disturbed members of public,” Mr Brown added.
“A lot of people deny why they’re there which is tragic, but they do engage with us and listen to our advice, which is good.
“Our ultimate goal is to encourage our LGBT community in Redbridge to have more confidence in the police and to report LGBT crimes in the knowledge they will get investigated properly by specially trained investigators such as myself.”