'It's suffocating': LGBT+ community in Birmingham speak out following rise in hate crime

ITV News Central Journalist George Hancorn reports on the rise in reports of LGBT+ hate crime

Figures obtained by ITV News Central show reported incidents of LGBT+ hate crime in the West Midlands have increased by more than 30% in the last year.

It follows a number of recent reported incidents of homophobic and transphobic hate crime in Birmingham.

Birmingham's Gay Village is considered a safe haven for many in the LGBT+ community, but some who often visit this area of the city have told ITV Central recent events have made them feel unsafe.

One person said: "I live a five-minute walk away, and literally, the whole way there we'll be in constant fear, constantly on edge because I don't know what's going to happen."

Another told ITV Central they often encounter "verbal abuse, just not very nice language used" at them.

'It's not something we need to change, it's something they need to change'

A third said: "It makes you worry that it's not as safe as it should be."

Another person added: "I feel like at times I have to act differently."

Their comments come as figures released by West Midlands Police reveal that in the last year, reports of LGBT+ hate crime have increased by over 30% across the West Midlands region.

Meanwhile Char Bailey, who is the Head of Education and Wellbeing for Birmingham Pride, has told ITV Central it is painful when anyone encounters any abuse.

'It's heartbreaking, it's suffocating but we will always pursue and survive', Char Bailey says

She said: "Anytime anyone undergoes any harm it's hurtful."

"It's hurtful for us as individuals, it's especially as hurtful for us as a community."

Now, additional officers are being deployed into key areas within the city, including in Birmingham's Gay Village.

West Midlands Police hope their visible presence will encourage potential victims of abuse to speak up and seek advice.

*Figures as part of a Freedom of Information Request

Pop-up police tents are also being rolled out who are subjected to abuse to offer people support while out in the city centre.

West Midlands Police's Deputy Chief Constable, Vanessa Jardine, also leads on LGBT+ issues for the force.

'I'm absolutely sickened by some of the incidents', says West Midlands Police's Deputy Chief Constable

She told ITV Central: "Being a member of the LGBT+ community myself, I'm absolutely sickened by some of the incidents.

"People should be able to go out and about in the nighttime economy - and not feel that they will be targeted."

"I want to reassure members of the public that we do take these matters very seriously."

But what else needs to be done?

Andrew Moffat rolled out 'No Outsiders' - it teaches children across the country to value Birmingham's community diversity.

Whilst his approach sparked protests across schools in Birmingham in 2019, he hopes further education can help to curb recent reports of hate crime.

'The rise in homophobic attacks is shocking', Andrew Moffat says

Mr Moffat said: "I've lived in Birmingham for 45 years and I feel safe in Birmingham but when you hear about things like that happening, it does make you feel worried.

"I'm very confident about the solution to these attacks, the solution is education.

"It's absolutely the key, we've got to have schools confidently teaching children to embrace diversity, it's about talking about who we are."

"I love being gay, it's great but you don't have to celebrate me being gay, I want acceptance from you, I'll celebrate it, fantastic - you don't have to.

"However, we can coexist, we can get along even though we are different, that's what it is all about."

Also calling for change is Anti-abuse organisation Galop - set up to support those who are LGBT+ - hope small changes can make a big difference.

They're calling on more spending on services to help those who've been victims of abuse.