Two gay men were attacked and beaten in separate Metro stations in April in unrelated incidents, a gay man survived a throat slashing attack as he was walking home from the gay nightclub Town last month, and a man identified by police privately as being gay was shot to death in June three blocks from the Frederick Douglas house and museum in Anacostia.
None of these incidents have been listed by D.C. police as anti-LGBT hate crimes. But the three assaults and murder took place at a time when city officials are searching for ways to address a surging rise in violent crime, including homicides, in all parts of the District.
And while it couldn’t immediately be determined whether LGBT residents are being victimized by crime in greater numbers than other city residents, some activists have expressed concern that the 2015 crime wave has come at a time when two important LGBT organizations have reduced their activities and services.
Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, known as GLOV, a local group that has monitored anti-LGBT hate crimes and assisted LGBT crime victims for more than 10 years, has largely ceased operating in recent months after its two top volunteer leaders resigned. One moved away from the D.C. area and the other had to withdraw due to increased responsibilities at his regular job, according to David Mariner, executive director of the D.C. LGBT Community Center.
GLOV is a project of the LGBT Center, located in the city’s Reeves Center municipal building at 14th and U streets, N.W.
“GLOV is going through a transition,” Mariner told the Blade. “So some of our core folks are no longer a part of GLOV, and we’re really looking at rebuilding GLOV and figuring out what makes the best sense for D.C. and the LGBT community with regard to the work that GLOV has been doing.”
Mariner said the LGBT Center is inviting members of the community to attend a meeting at the Center on Sept. 24 to discuss plans for restoring GLOV to its past role as a proactive group that closely monitors anti-LGBT crime and the actions by D.C. police to address LGBT-related crime.
At the same time, activists have also expressed concern that the D.C. Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit – similar to police units associated with the Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, and deaf and hard of hearing communities – has curtailed its outreach and other activities.
The reduced activities began about a year ago when D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, faced with a shortage of patrol officers due to a “bubble” in the number of officers retiring, put in place a policy of redeploying officers assigned to the special liaison units to street patrol duties during part of their daily or weekly duties.
Sources familiar with the GLLU have said that the five GLLU officers assigned to the unit’s headquarters in Dupont Circle spend about 60 percent of their time on non-LGBT related duties.
Police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump has said the GLLU officers remain available to answer LGBT community related calls even when they are working on non-LGBT related street patrol duties. Crump and other police officials have said that the unit remains an active part of the department’s effort to provide police services to the LGBT community.
Earlier this year, Lanier named Sgt. Jessica Hawkins as the new supervisor of the GLLU, making her the first transgender police official to head the unit. While activists hailed Hawkins’ appointment as an important development for LGBT equality, sources familiar with the department point out that she, too, has been diverted from performing full-time duties at the GLLU. In recent months, Hawkins was assigned to teach at the police academy, taking her away from overseeing the unit and taking calls on the unit’s duty phone during times when she’s teaching classes.
The June 25 murder of gay D.C. resident Stephon Marquis Perkins, 21, came at a time when the city’s murder rate was rising at a pace far greater than one year ago. Police said Perkins was found unconscious on the street at the intersection of 16th and Galen streets, S.E. at 3:15 a.m. suffering from a gunshot wound.
A police report says Perkins had been shot in the head and was found “laying on the ground in a pool of blood around his head.”
Police spokesperson Crump would neither confirm nor deny that Perkins was gay.
“We cannot confirm details of the decedent,” she told the Blade in an email. “This is an ongoing investigation and a motive has not been established. “There have been no arrests at this time,” she said. “The shooting occurred where the victim was located.”
A source familiar with a coalition of local LGBT organizations that meets monthly with police officials called the Violence Prevention and Response Team, or VPART, said at least one high-level police official told VPART members that Perkins was gay.
“They said his mother and his boyfriend went the hospital to see him,” the source said. According to the source, Deputy Police Chief Diane Groomes was among the police officials who said Perkins was gay.
A police statement announcing the murder said Perkins was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injury and was pronounced dead.
Police are offering a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Perkins’ murder. Anyone with information about the case is being asked to contact police at (202) 727-9099.
The VPART group meets monthly at the office of Sheila Alexander-Reid, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.
Reid told the Blade she didn’t recall any of the police officials attending a recent VPART meeting mentioning anything about the Perkins murder.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was scheduled to announce on Thursday morning plans for her “fall public safety agenda,” including legislative proposals.
D.C. Council members David Grosso (I-At-Large) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who serves as chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee, have also said they are considering introducing legislation to address public safety and crime-related matters.
“The LGBTQ community is disproportionately affected by crime in the District of Columbia and everywhere else,” Grosso told the Blade on Tuesday. “And so it’s important and is a priority of mine at the Council to make sure we are constantly asking MPD what they’re doing to actually make sure that there are sufficient resources applied to address all these crimes,” he said.
Among other things, Grosso has said he is considering introducing legislation to decriminalize prostitution in the District based, among other things, on a recent Amnesty International report calling for worldwide decriminalization of sex work.
Sasanka Jinadasa, Capacity Building Resource Manager for the D.C. group HIPS, which provides services for sex workers, said a D.C. police crackdown on prostitution taking place now has had an a negative impact on all sex workers, including transgender women involved in that work.
She said HIPS has found that the negative effects of criminalization has made trans female sex workers more susceptible to violence.