Members of the Metropolitan Police Equalities Unit have met with LGBT businesses and the gay media in London.

Today’s meeting was part of a new initiative to improve the relationship between the police and minority groups.

PC Andy Ricketts, PC Cassie Hall and Sergeant Mathew Butterworth were present at the LGBT Tourist Information Office in Soho, the heart of London’s gay scene.

Sgt Butterworth said: “Hate crime in Soho is falling but we need to make sure that victims feel the confidence to report these crimes when they occur.

“We’re really trying to make ourselves more visible to the community and through meetings like this we really hope to get ourselves out there.”

PC Ricketts added: “We have been talking to a lot older members of the LGBT community who have had negative experiences from another era of policing.

“What has been so encouraging is that a lot of people from this section of the community can see the changes that have happened through the years and they now have a much more positive view of the police.”

The Equalities and Diversity Unit has rolled out an extensive programme of events including a stall in Old Compton Street and regular meetings with LGBT businesses in the local area.

One of the schemes launching over the coming months will be third party reporting, where people can report crime without having to contact police.

Various bars and business will be designated as places where people can report crimes to store managers or bar staff.

“Despite the progress that we have made, many people from minority groups would feel more comfortable reporting a crime to someone who wasn’t a police office,” said PC Hall.

“Even if people don’t want us to follow up the incident it is important that we know when such crimes occur so that we can effectively tackle the issue.”

LGBT Tourist Information Office director Michele Cremona told Pinknews.co.uk: “It is evident from the amount of work that the Equalities and Diversity Unit are doing that they are committed to working more closely with the LGBT community.

“The LGBT Tourist Information Office works with so many areas of the LGBT community and I can see how initiatives such as the ‘third party reporting’ scheme can benefit people who might have shied away from reporting a crime previously.”