D.C. sees alarming increase in anti-LGBT hate crimes in 2018

By : Lou Chibbaro Jr OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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The number of anti-LGBT hate crimes reported in D.C. in 2018 nearly doubled from the number of reported cases in 2016, according to recently released data by D.C. police.

The data show there were a total of 97 reported hate crimes in the nation’s capital in 2018 based on the victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, representing an increase from 59 such cases in 2016 and 69 anti-LGBT hate crimes reported in 2017.

The number of anti-LGBT hate crimes reported in D.C. in 2018 also amounted to nearly half the total number of all hate crimes reported in the city that year, which came to 209. The anti-LGBT figures were significantly higher than other categories of hate crimes such as those based on a victim’s, ethnicity (49), race (39), or religion (12).

The police data show that most of the cases for each of the past three years in D.C. involved hate crimes based on the victim’s sexual orientation, although hate crimes targeting transgender people also rose sharply but made up fewer cases.

The reported cases based on sexual orientation in the District included 61 in 2018, 56 in 2017, and 20 in 2016. The number of gender identity and expression cases where transgender people were targeted included 36 in 2018, 13 in 2017, and 19 in 2016.

A recent report released by California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism shows that hate crimes have increased in many cities across the country over the past two years. The report says anti-LGBT hate crimes similar to D.C. are most prevalent in many other cities.

Both activists and city officials in D.C., including Mayor Muriel Bowser, have cited what they call a hostile political environment from the Trump administration as a potential cause for the uptick in hate crimes.

“I do think that the president of the United States has been very actively tearing down protections for the LGBTQ community, whether it’s in the military or whether it’s in employment,” said Monica Palacio, director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights.

“I personally, in my work, I know that over the last 25 years when you have a national role model spewing homophobia a lot is going to happen in the way people treat one another,” Palacio told the Washington Blade. “And it’s going to tear down that kind of common decency and sense of respect for people’s life choices,” she said.

D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, said he believes at least some of the increased numbers of reported hate crimes in D.C. are due to a policy put in place two years ago by D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham to educate the public about hate crimes and to encourage citizens to report such crimes.

“Our outreach and our relationship with members of the community continue to get stronger and stronger,” Parson said. “And that’s probably the reason why you’re seeing more people report their victimization,” he said. “And then you have to admit also that there are probably more bias-related crimes occurring.”

Data released by D.C. police through a large spreadsheet show that the anti-LGBT hate crimes reported in 2018 took place in all parts of the city, with many appearing to occur in neighborhoods not known to have gay bars or a visible LGBT presence such as Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan.

D.C. police point out that a hate crime is not considered an actual crime in and of itself but rather a “designation” linked to a crime such as assault, robbery, destruction of property or threats of violence. A statement on the police website notes that “most speech is not a hate crime, regardless of how offensive it may be.”

Under D.C.’s hate crimes law a person found guilty of a “bias related” or hate crime may be fined up to one and a half times the maximum fine and imprisoned for up to one and a half times the maximum prison term for the underlying crime such as assault, murder or other crimes with a hate crime attachment.

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