January 3, 2018 at 5:05 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Citywide crime down, LGBT-related crime up in 2017
Peter Newsham, gay news, Washington Blade, crime, LGBT-related crime

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham moved the LGBT Liaison Unit under the Executive Office of the Chief of Police. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

While all categories of citywide crime decreased by 11 percent in D.C. in 2017 the number of crimes involving LGBT people as victims appears to have increased, according to Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Brett Parson.

Parson, who oversees the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, said the increase in LGBT-related crime observed by the unit may be due to more people coming forward to report a crime rather than an actual increase in the number of such crimes.

Parson noted that when D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham took office in 2016 he moved the department’s Special Liaison Branch, which includes the LGBT Liaison Unit, under the Executive Office of the Chief of Police.

Since that time, according to Parson, “the activity and visibility – outreach, training, education, and response to crimes and incidents – of the LGBT Liaison unit has increased in the community and within MPD. We are certain the increased activity and visibility has resulted in more cases being referred and brought to the attention of the LGBT Liaison Unit. This may not necessarily reflect an increase in the occurrence of crime, but may be simply that because of that increased visibility and activity more community members and MPD members are reaching out to the LGBTLU.”

Parson didn’t provide specific figures showing the number of LGBT-related crime incidents investigated or recorded by the LGBT Liaison Unit.

At a news conference on Tuesday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined Newsham and the director of the city’s Department of Forensic Sciences, which operates a high tech crime lab, in announcing what they called optimistic crime data in the city for 2017.

“Throughout 2017, crime continued to decease in Washington, D.C., with a 22 percent reduction in violent crime, a 9 percent reduction in property crime, and an 11 percent decrease in total crime,” a statement released by the mayor’s office says.

The statement points out that since 2014, violent crime has decreased by 28 percent, property crime has decreased by 11 percent, and total crime decreased by 14 percent.

“With our community-based approach to crime and violence prevention, we are making progress toward a safer, stronger D.C., but we have more work to do,” Bowser said. “Identifying crime patterns, focusing on repeat violent offenders, removing illegal guns from our streets, and quickly testing key evidence are essential parts of combating crime across the District,” she said.

“I am proud of what our public safety agencies have accomplished, and in 2018, we will continue to build on that progress,” the mayor said.

Although the police department doesn’t break down its overall crime statistics based on a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, it does keep track of hate crimes targeting LGBT people.

Parson noted that preliminary figures for 2017 hate crimes through the end of November show an increase of 13 hate crimes based on sexual orientation – from 38 in 2016 to 51 as of the end of November 2017.

He said the data show a decrease in the number of hate crimes targeting transgender people from 18 in 2016 to 13 as of the end of November 2017.

“As always, these figures are subject to change if further investigation reveals information about a bias-based motive,” Parson told the Blade.

There were no reported murders of LGBT people in D.C. in 2017. However, a gay man who was last seen alive in the D.C. gay bar Nellies, Matthew Mickens-Murrey, was found stabbed to death in his apartment in Hyattsville, Md., on May 30, 2017. Prince George’s County police say they have no suspect and no known motive in that case.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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