Abney Park patrols set to monitor ‘gay cruising’

Staff from Terrence Higgins Trust will be patrolling Abney Park cemetery

Staff from Terrence Higgins Trust will be patrolling Abney Park cemetery - Credit: Archant

Patrols of Abney Park cemetery are going to be carried out to try and gauge the extent of its ‘gay cruising’ scene.

The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) charity has been given nearly £8,000 for two outreach workers to monitor the public park three hours each week until October.

Funding comes from the council’s Healthier Hackney Fund, which has distributed government funds to 32 preventative projects run by community and voluntary groups to “tackle some of Hackney’s most complex health challenges” like smoking, mental health, substance misuse and sexual health.

Del Campbell from the THT said: “At the moment we aren’t sure how big the problem is, the parks managers are getting two different versions of the issue and we need to explore both.

“In the worst case scenario, they have been told that people might be offended that there are people using the area as a public sex environment.

“Some people say there is a real nuisance and there are people taking drugs, and having sex, this is about trying to find out what the truth is – we aren’t sure if it’s on the same level as Hampstead Heath, that’s what we are going to find out.”

Staff wearing purple THT uniform will distribute literature and condoms, and will be able to advise people about sexual health clinics, counselling, mental health and housing clinics.

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Mr Campbell added: “Sometimes there is evidence of condom wrappers, and that’s what we want people to stop, no one likes to see that in a beautiful area.

“Cruising around in a cemetery is not an ideal choice, you could get into trouble, it might be seen as disrespectable. There are drinkers there who use it who are a different group of people - people who go cruising are victims of homophobic violence.

“We will be trying to gain a bit of trust with the client group, a lot of them don’t identify as being gay men, they are men who have sex with men, they might have double lifestyles.”

“Sometimes the people you most want to engage with aren’t looking after themselves or are from cultures where having sex with men is not acceptable,

He continued: “We can perhaps encourage them to go to other environments where it’s safe to have sex with other people, to show respect for other people who use the park.

“There aren’t really any LGBT venues in Hackney, and some people say there are no other places for me to go to meet people.

“It’s a good opportunity to find out what the issues are and to support people who are hard to reach, as a one-off bit of funding it’s money well spent.”