NSW Police have hit back at claims gay victims go ignored, and blamed intoxication, not homophobia, for the spate of bashings against the gay community on Oxford St.

“All too often people become a victim of crime or an offender because of alcohol and drug abuse, and police in Surry Hills and surrounding inner-city suburbs are tackling these issues on a nightly basis,” acting Central Metropolitan Regional Commander Paul Carey told SSO.

He said during the summer months Surry Hills police deployed the annual high visibility Operation Gilligans, targeting alcohol and drugs in the entertainment precinct.

“These operations lock away people who get too many drinks under their belt and assault people,” Carey said.

“Police have no tolerance for this kind of behaviour, regardless of who the victim may be.”

He said Surry Hills officers would actively patrol and visit the “Safe Place” on Oxford St.

Carey also said it was difficult for officers to ask victims whether they believed a crime was motivated by homophobia, especially if the victim had not voluntarily stated their sexuality.

“It is a sensitive topic that can lead to allegations of police either making inappropriate assumptions about someone’s sexuality or, on the other hand, not treating a crime as a hate crime,” he said.

In May and June last year officers at Surry Hills Command were given training from a police prosecutor on how to ask victims if they believed a crime was gay-hate related.

Senior management at the Command agreed to put every officer through the one-day seminar, but so far only 60 of the 165 staff have taken part.

The Anti-Violence Project and other community groups, including Sydney Star Observer, addressed the officers during the seminar. Plans to offer the seminar to Kings Cross and other local area commands have not been pursued.

Carey said other programs were being developed on a variety of GLBT issues, and police were pursuing additional training options for those officers at Surry Hills who did not attend the previous seminar.

“It should also be pointed out that it can be difficult for police to positively determine that a crime is motivated by homophobia or any other prejudice without first interviewing the offender to ascertain their motivation,” Carey said.

Carey also defended the investigation into the bashing of Craig Gee and Shane Brennen last month.

“For various investigative and legal reasons, security footage is often released to the public only after all available lines of investigation are exhausted,” he said.

“In this instance, the footage also had to be enhanced by investigators and so could not be released immediately.”

He said a nearby local youth refuge was also canvassed to identify possible suspects.

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