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Rise in homophobic attacks at Brighton cruising spot
The number of homophobic attacks at a well-known gay cruising spot have risen in the past year.
Sussex Police said it had recorded an increase in the number of incidents at Dukes Mound, off Madeira Drive, Brighton.
No exact figures have been given out but it is understood the number of instances of verbal and physical homophobic abuse have been in their hundreds.
However the force claimed that after a spike in reported incidents in recent months it had launched a crackdown which had brought the situation under control.
Nick Antjoule, the force's Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans liaison officer, said the rise in attacks at Dukes Mound, used regularly as a meeting place for gay men, had prompted a concerted police response.
High-profile patrols have been taking place and officers have engaged with users of the area to identify suspects.
Seven people have been arrested and bailed with conditions banning them from returning to Dukes Mound.
Mr Antjoule said the number of hate-crime incidents reported in the area had since been reduced.
James Ledward, editor of LGBT community magazine Gscene, said the police response had been welcomed but concerns remained.
He said: "My concern is that, based on anecdotal evidence, less and less people are reporting incidents to the police, so even if the official statistics are down there is still a problem, not just in Dukes Mound but across Kemp Town.
"If you look at the figures they show that very few prosecutions take place following reports of homophobic incidents and I get the impression that is putting people off from reporting them. People are looking at it and thinking ‘why bother?’."
Mr Ledward said Gscene was campaigning to encourage more victims to report attacks and would soon be setting up a section on its website to make it easier for them.
The police said before the recent spike the number of attacks reported in the last year had been down from previous years.
They have now returned to the same rate.
The amount of policing around Dukes Mound is due to be returned to its usual level for the time of year.
Mr Antjoule said: "It can be a real tightrope act to keep men who use cruising grounds safe while maintaining their confidence in us, so I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved."
Despite the spike there have been no major incidents reported and the Pride celebrations 10 days ago passed without any homophobic attacks.
Troy Perrin, a pizza delivery driver from High Street, Brighton, was jailed in December for four years for assaulting a reveller after Pride in 2007 and leaving him with a broken arm.