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Birmingham police begin ‘friendly and visible’ patrols to combat anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes

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Members of the Birmingham StreetWatch crew wear yellow high-vis jackets, smiling in front of the police headquarters.

Birmingham police have created an innovative scheme to help prevent anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes.

The West Midlands Police Department announced the New Rainbow StreetWatch initiative on Tuesday (13 December), which will put individuals on the streets to protect the city’s queer community.

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The scheme allows volunteers to join StreetWatch patrols in Hurst Street, Birmingham – commonly known as the “gay village” – to help stop hate crime in the area.

It was formed from a “direct response to community feedback to a survey during Pride“, according to the West Midlands Police.

Members of the local LGBTQ+ community reportedly wrote that personal safety had become a significant issue in the city, especially when travelling between bars in the evening.

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While StreetWatch initiatives already operate in Birmingham, this is the first to take place within the city’s LGBTQ-centric district.

A spokesperson from Rainbow StreetWatch told PinkNews that organisers are incredibly confident about the scheme’s ability to make the community safer.

The vetting process for a volunteer is reportedly relatively short and involves a brief interview with organisers.

Approvals can even reportedly occur on the same day, minus preliminary background checks, according to sources at StreetWatch.

So far, two volunteers have completed active patrols in Hurst Street, while another is set to join the team, and more are currently being processed for approval.

Each volunteer will be required to work at least two hours per month on patrols and must be aged over 18.

Organisers aim to maximise the goodwill of motivated community members to help protect individuals from homophobic attacks.

“As well as being a friendly and visible presence to help make people feel safer, Rainbow StreetWatch will report things like pot holes and broken streetlights to Birmingham City Council,” a statement says.

According to data reported by BirminghamLive, the West Midlands received the fourth-highest number of transphobic hate crime reports in 2021.

Statistics found by VICE found that LGBTQ+ hate crimes rose by 43 per cent in the region.

In response to the news, West Midlands Police inspector Amanda Thompson said: “It’s sad that in the 21st century, people are still being targeted because of who they love and how they identify.

“It is important that we know about all hate crimes so that we can bring offenders to justice, make sure victims get the support they need and to help us understand the true scale of the problem so that interventions can be put in place.”

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