Police in Portsmouth have launched a new operation to target homophobic abuse following reports of anti-gay message directed at people outside gay and gay-friendly venues in the city centre.

The abusive language reported mainly comes from passengers in vehicles driving passed the venues on the city’s Hampshire Terrace.

As a result, on Friday, 27 April, two police officers were deployed in plain clothes outside the HB bar.

Other uniformed officers were deployed in a vehicle nearby ready to respond to reports of abuse.

The operation was co-ordinated with officers from the Targeted Patrol teams, Safer Neighbourhoods team and Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officers and another is 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.

“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 LGB&T 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, people hearing about this operation will encourage them to come forward and report hate crimes and incidents.”

In Brighton earlier this year, police officers tracked down a young man in a passing car who had shouted abuse at a group of drinkers outside one of the city’s gay bars.

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 it has just happened.

Portsmouth residents can speak to one of the force’s Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officers (LAGLOs) and follow them on Twitter at @HantsPoliceLGBT.