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London launches “Report Homophobic Violence, Period” campaign

Program follows a year of perceived increase in anti-gay violence

Daniel Pugh, chair of the London HBT Working Group, (left) and Marcel Marcellin, diversity officer with the London Police Service. Credit: Ben Benedict photo

The London Police Service, in partnership with the HBT (homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia) Working Group, came together during the International Day Against Homophobia to announce the launch of the “Report Homophobic Violence, Period” program following a perceived increase in homophobic violence within the past year.

Of the 30 hate crimes reported in 2009, 10 came from queers. There’s a belief that the actual number of hate crimes is higher, but that some fear disclosure of their orientation and do not report. The hope is that this new program will end that fear.

“We’re an organization sensitive to victims’ needs,” said deputy police chief Brad Duncan during Monday’s event. “We will not tolerate anyone who challenges our collective spirit.”

The information collected through this service will also give local police a better understanding of the need and where to best allocate resources.

“Having the report is important because now we’ll have a gauge as to what’s actually happening in the streets,” says Duncan. “After the rally last fall where Marcel Marcellin, diversity officer with the London Police Service, began to talk about this program… we chose to push and support it.”

Daniel Pugh is chair of the London HBT Working Group and has been an active member since its inception.

“It’s taken us over 15 months to put this together in working with the police. In the fall we started working with Marcel and the Toronto Police Service. We did some training around what this would look like in our community,” says Pugh. “It started in my role doing front line work with the AIDS Committee of London [ACOL].”

Pugh describes the new program as “infrastructure” to support those targetted by hate. “We need to know the City of London and the police services are working for us,” says Pugh. “What we’ve found over a long period of time is that homophobia exists every day and a lot of community members, especially youth, aren’t prepared to report. We know victims are less likely to report out of fear of further victimization.”

Duncan points to training that local officers have received as a way of bridging current gaps and concerns.

“We have in-service training where diversity officer Marcellin has spoken of the issues and this program to officers,” says Duncan. “If you don’t have the facts it’s difficult to deal with. Marcel talks to officers about being supportive to victims and its part of our training to our officers.”

Organizers are optimistic that the community will respond and have made it easy through the Crime Stopper’s website. According to material released, “WEBTIPS is an electronic service that is completely secure and allows for optional follow-up communications. This service is available in English, French and Spanish. To submit a tip online go to londoncrimestoppers.com and click on the ‘submit a tip online’ icon.”

For more information on the HBT Working Group join their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=240877468410.

For more information on Crime Stoppers and to report incidents of Homophobic violence visit www.londoncrimestoppers.com.