POLICE are ramping up their efforts to tackle homophobic abuse following a spate of incidents in Portsmouth.
Hampshire Constabulary say they have received several reports of people being verbally abused outside gay and gay-friendly venues in the city centre.
Police say most of the incidents have happened when passengers have hurled abuse at people while travelling in vehicles passing venues in the Hampshire Terrace area.
Officers have now carried out an operation in the area in a bid to clamp down on the problem and encourage more victims to speak out.
Two plain-clothes police officers were stood outside HB Bar in Hampshire Terrace and other uniformed officers were in a vehicle nearby ready to respond during the operation last month.
It was co-ordinated with officers from targeted patrol and safer neighbourhoods teams and lesbian and gay liaison officers.
There were no incidents of abuse spotted on that occasion but police say another operation is being planned for the future.
PC Ryan Cheyne, from Southsea police station, said: ‘We get many reports from staff and customers of the local venues of people shouting abuse from the back of a passing vehicle.
‘I’m pleased to say that on this occasion there were no incidents of abuse. That doesn’t mean our operation was a waste of time, however, because we conduct them for a number of reasons.’
Even though no problems were reported police hope their efforts will encourage more victims to speak out, and help police to get rid of the problem.
PC Cheyne added: ‘Primarily we want to protect our communities by deterring people from committing these sorts of offences in the first place. Verbal abuse is unacceptable. It can be distressing and if we tolerate it, it sends out a message that it’s OK to treat others this way.
‘Secondly, we want to reassure lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities that something can be done about it. We might not always be able to make an arrest there and then, but we can plan operations like this which address the long-term issues.
‘Hopefully, hearing about this operation will encourage people to come forward and report hate crimes and incidents.’
If you have been assaulted, threatened, intimidated because of sexual orientation or gender identity, call police on 101, or 999 in an emergency or if the incident has just happened. Victims can also request to speak to one of the force’s lesbian and gay liaison officers.