Westminster police held a meeting today to reassure local businesses that homophobic hate crime is being tackled in the borough and that numbers of LGBT liaison officers will not be watered down.
The area has a large number of gay pubs, bars, shops and restaurants and is one of the most popular destinations for gay people in the capital.
The meeting was arranged at Heaven nightclub with local business owners in response to the homophobic murder of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square last month and rising reports of gay hate crime.
Supt Simon Ovens, for Westminster South, said: “We realised a few weeks ago after the horrible murder in Trafalgar Square that we haven’t had the gay businesses together in a very long time.
“We know you need and deserve a different kind of policing because people who work in and visit this borough can become victims of crime because of who they are or who they are perceived to be. There was no greater signal of that than when that man was killed in Trafalgar Square.”
Ovens added that the borough had a detection rate of around 48 per cent for homophobic crimes, which he described as “better than a lot of places”.
But he added that people must report crimes, including “daily aggravation”, saying: “If I don’t know it’s happening, it’s very difficult to know where to target resources”.
Chief inspector Dave Grainger explained the changes made around LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) liaison officers.
Westminster currently has two full-time LGBT liaison officers but they are in the process of moving to different roles.
Grainger promised local business owners that they would not be watered down, saying that instead two new officers were being recruited for the roles who would be based in Westminster city hall alongside four other diversity officers.
He stressed that the two LGBT liaison officers would deal with LGBT issues, rather than equality issues as a whole. Twelve part-time LGBT liaison officers will continue their duties.
A number of audience members expressed concern that other boroughs were removing LGBT liaison officers, while one asked whether the part-time officers had enough time to look after the LGBT community.
Grainger said: “We are not reducing LGBT liaison officers. We will have two dedicated full-time officers working out of city hall and about 12 part-time ones. The service has been enhanced, not reduced.
“Perhaps if we had communicated more, you wouldn’t have received mixed messages.”
He said that he could not comment on other boroughs but was prepared to find out more and report back to the community.
The LGBT service in the borough will be up to full complement by mid-December, he added.
The meeting was attended by around 40 people and it was suggested that a business-led LGBT forum should be set up in the borough, similar to ones in Camden and Vauxhall.