HOMOPHOBIC crimes being reported to police have dropped by more than a third in the last five years, The News can reveal.
Figures obtained from Hampshire Police through a Freedom of Information Request show 169 homophobic crimes were reported last year – down on the 265 in 2007.
The numbers have generally fallen year after year, with 199 crimes reported in 2008, and 179 in 2010.
Three years ago saw a slight increase, with 213 homophobic crimes reported in 2009.
Gay groups welcomed the news, but said the figures are still too high and were worried that homophobia was actually increasing and not being reported.
Andy Marshall, head of the LGBT (lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender) staff forum at the University of Portsmouth, said: ‘I’m delighted the figures seem to be going down, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I don’t think we are in the right place yet.
‘In certain sectors of society it’s becoming increasingly acceptable to be more vocal about homophobia.’
He was concerned that insults seemed to have become more socially acceptable as people were becoming ‘desensitised’ in the age of the internet.
He added: ‘The danger of that is by not paying as much attention to homophobia, you don’t challenge it.
‘People have forgotten the root of homophobic abuse and comments. It’s worrying that it’s becoming more permissible and more acceptable, with popular slang terminology being used in a negative way.’
Police said crimes included verbal abuse, harassment and physical assaults.
Inspector Julie Fry, chair of Hampshire police’s LGBT resource group, said people felt more comfortable to report homophobic crime following an awareness campaign in 2004 and 2005.
She said: ‘It’s always been consistent. It depends on whether people have felt safe to come to the police. We know that people feel a lot more comfortable to come to the police and report their crime.’
She added: ‘I’d like to see another concerted effort to encourage the reporting of crimes to see if leads to an increase.’
Figures released by the Crown Prosecution Service show 47 convictions were made in Hampshire last year for homophobic crime.