Fears as city hate crime rockets
The number of reported hate crimes in Brighton and Hove has rocketed in the last six months.
Homophobic attacks reported to the police have risen by 42 per cent, with 167 incidents between April and November. Racist attacks were also up by seven per cent to 408 over the same period.
Gay rights campaigners claim the official statistics are proof homophobic violence is on the increase in the city while police say the figures show victims feel more comfortable reporting hate crime.
Peter Tatchell, a spokesman for gay rights group OutRage!, said: “I am shocked and surprised by these figures. It’s hard to say whether the rise is due to more attacks or more people reporting violence but either way there is clearly a big problem.
“It’s ironic that the gay capital of Britain is also one of the country’s growing hot spots of homophobic attacks.
“The perception is that Brighton is a gay-friendly city and a safe secure place for lesbian and gay people. These figures tear that image to shreds.”
Police say the rise in reported offences is proof they are building trust with minority communities in Brighton and Hove and people are now more willing to come forward and report hate crime.
Sussex police spokeswoman Sue Heard said: “While we never want to see crime rise, we are aware that this is reported incidents of hate crime and see this as a positive step. We have been very pro-active in introducing self-reporting facilities for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and run a similar scheme for race crime.
“We have made huge inroads into building trust with minority communities through a range of schemes including self-reporting and anonymous reporting of hate crime. There are a whole raft of reasons why somebody might not report a homophobic or racist attacks and we are working to give people the confidence to come forward.”
The figures emerged as the Home Office revealed a new initiative designed to tackle homophobic hate crime. The numbers could be just the tip of the iceberg as police estimate about 90 per cent of all hate crime across the country is not reported.
Brighton and Hove city councillor Simon Williams, who has previously called for more research into homophobic violence in the city, said: “I think there are a combination of factors behind the rise in attacks.
“Over the past couple of years there have been some welcome reporting systems put in place so more crime is being reported but I also think we are seeing more attacks.
“Part of the reason for this may be increased visibility of LGBT people over the summer months at events like Pride.”
The shock statistics are to be discussed at the Community Safety Forum meeting at Hove Town Hall on Monday.
City council leader Simon Burgess said: “Personally I won’t be happy until Brighton and Hove is free of prejudice.”