Manchester police are implementing more patrols along the canal tow path after a number of complaints about robberies and assaults.

The area has long been a popular spot for men meeting for sex but cruisers are now being warned they face arrest if caught.

Along with heightened police presence, Manchester city council will reportedly improve lighting, cleanliness and signage along the towpath.

Inspector Jo Marshall, from Manchester city centre neighbourhood policing team, told the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF): “This operation will be treated sensitively and this should not be seen as an initiative that is solely targeting the gay community. The increase of activity in this area is affecting people going about their everyday business.’

“This is about acting on the concerns of the people who live and work in the area and about protecting vulnerable people. Our aim is to improve the area for everyone so that it is safe and free from crime.”

The LGF is warning gay cruisers that they may be arrested if caught by police.

Andrew Gilliver, the charity’s communications manager, said it was important to remember the changes the area has undergone in recent years and urged people to have respect for local residents and businesses.

He said: “We want to inform people who use this area that anyone found committing the offence of ‘outraging public decency’, which includes acts such as masturbation and sex in a public place will be arrested and taken to the nearest police station. You will face a caution and for repeated offences possible six months imprisonment or a hefty fine.

“LGF have liaised with the police and we believe that Greater Manchester Police are aware of the sensitive nature of many cruising activities and it is important that we inform men who use the canal for such activities that it is no longer a safe cruising area.”

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