Anti-violence activists have begun to lay the groundwork for a project they maintain will provide a more accurate count of the number of anti-LGBT hate crimes and incidents of domestic violence among same-sex couples in Washington, D.C.
The initiative would allow victims to report attacks to service providers without going through the Metropolitan Police Department. Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, the D.C. Trans Coalition, the Rainbow Response Coalition and other member groups would enter information about crime victims, the location in which their assailants attacked them and other demographic information into a database.
GLOV Vice Chair Hassan Naveed told the Blade that the project remains in the preliminary planning stages. Rainbow Response Coalition Treasurer Paul Ashton said that the coalition hopes to send its initial data to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs at the end of the year. NCAVP would then use it in its 2012 report that it will release in 2013.
This would mark the first time that the agency would include District-specific data on LGBT bias-motivated crimes and domestic violence among same-sex couples in its annual publication.
“We can actually capture in our community what it looks like and determine who is a survivor of a hate crime, who is a survivor of intimate-partner violence,” said Ashton. “It really gives us the legs to advocate for policy changes as well as money to ensure service providers are trained properly to handle hate crimes and domestic violence cases in our community.”
MPD statistics show that there were 12 reported bias-related crimes based on sexual orientation from January through April, compared to two that were based on gender identity and expression.
The agency indicated that there were 43 reported bias-related crimes based on sexual orientation in 2011, compared to 35 in 2010 and 30 in 2009. MPD statistics show that there were 11 bias-related crimes based on gender identity and expression in the District in 2011, compared to 10 in 2010 and five in 2009.
Naveed was quick to applaud what he described as MPD’s improved outreach to immigrants and LGBT Washingtonians. He said he always encourages victims to report hate crimes to the police, but he stressed that many victims of anti-LGBT bias attacks remain afraid to come forward to the police because of their immigration status or previous experiences with law enforcement.
Naveed further stressed that the MPD officers who refused to take a report of an anti-gay attack against five lesbians outside the Columbia Heights Metro station last July and other high-profile incidents can dissuade victims of anti-LGBT bias crimes from going to the police.
“We want to create a process accessible to people who can go and report hate crimes to service providers in the city,” said Naveed. “GLOV’s efforts are to get a bigger picture of hate crimes in the city through these statistics. This would be an accessible way for the LGBT community to be able to report these hate crimes in a comfortable setting.”
MPD spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump responded to the reporting initiative late on Tuesday.
“We welcome input from community organizations, which can be a valuable source for information about people who have not reported information to the police,” she told the Blade. “However, it must be understood that Department figures are based on reported incidents that meet legal definitions of both a crime and a crime that was specifically motivated by a legally defined bias. More importantly, we would caution that we cannot help victims or protect the community if people do not make a report to the police. We urge anyone who has been a victim of crime or a hate crime to report it to police. Individuals who believe they have been the victim of a hate crime can contact police in a number of ways, including calling 911, reaching out to the relevant liaison office or an officer working in their neighborhood, or leaving a message on the Hate Crime Hotline.”