This research is based on focus groups with gay men in the Black Country, an area o f the
West Midlands and examines the extent to which the men change their behaviour to
avoid being identified as gay. Frequently, behaviour change was not in response to direct
or overt threats, but instead, in response to perceived or implied threats. The way in
which this limits personal freedoms and feelings o f community safety should be regarded
as a key element of hate crime. The men in the focus groups also recognised clear
geographical dimensions to this implied hate crime, with certain areas being identified as
hostile. Problematically, relying solely on quantitative data to inform patterns o f hate
crime is therefore limited as it (i) fails to include perceptions, (ii) fails to recognise that
certain areas are avoided because o f perceived threats, and (iii) fails to recognise underreporting.
A strategic response to hate crime must involve being more proactive and a
multi-agency approach, with this article identifying how this research led to a sustainable
and strategic response.
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