Police group looks at crimes, unsolved murders
by Angela Thomas
Jan 17, 2013 | 902 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The first Philadelphia Police LGBT Liaison Committee meeting of the year came with a word of caution to the community: Be aware of your surroundings.

On Jan. 10, the committee convened at the William Way LGBT Community Center to discuss updates on several unsolved murders in the LGBT community, recent crime statistics in the Gayborhood and a possible antigay hate crime that occurred New Year’s Eve.

Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel, the department’s LGBT liaison, provided a report on the investigation into the murders of Kyra Cordova, Stacey Blahnik and Michael J. Fox, although there was little new information.

He said investigators continue to work on each case but are not yet at the point of making any arrests.

Members and police officials also reviewed crime trends in the Gayborhood.

Officer Joe Ferraro said there have been a number of recent apartment and home break-ins in the Sixth District, which encompasses the Gayborhood.

Sgt. Mark Palma said it’s crucial for individuals to report suspicious people near their buildings to the police.

“Don’t wait. Don’t say in your mind, ‘No, I don’t think they are doing anything,’” he said. “Please call. That is what we are here for.”

Robbery arrests included one outside of Woody’s, where two males asked an individual for a cigarette and then proceeded to rob the victim.

Ferraro warned community members to be more vigilant when they walk around the city at night with their cell phones — noting a recent cell-phone robbery of a priest.

“We had a Lutheran priest at the 1200 block of Walnut Street get robbed of his phone,” the officer said. “He was pepper-sprayed in the face.”

Lt. Patrick Doherty encouraged those with smart phones to download the “Track My Phone” app. He cautioned those with the app not to discontinue their phone service in the event of a robbery so that officials can utilize the app to track the phone.

The group also discussed an alleged hate crime that happened on New Year’s Eve near the Gayborhood, with the four victims present.

According to one of the victims, he was holding hands with another man on 13th between Market and Chestnut streets and was attacked by a group of people consisting of one woman and three men, who called them “faggots” repeatedly. Two men who witnessed the fight tried to intervene and were attacked by the group in the process, resulting in injuries to one man’s mouth.

The four victims connected over Craigslist after one of them posted a description of the event to locate any witnesses.

Doherty said detectives are working hard on the case.

Although Pennsylvania does not have an LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes law, Nellie Fitzpatrick, a committee member and LGBT liaison for the District Attorney’s Office, said cases like this can be used to demonstrate the need for such a measure.

“Every time we have a case like this, we try and make the best record that we can to show how desperately there is a need for protection at the state level, and then at sentencing, we bring in the entire community to show the effect it has on all of us and this area,” she said.

Doherty urged those who fall victim to a crime they perceive to be motivated by bias to not only report it to the police, but also to let the responding officer know if it could be an alleged hate crime.

“It is important that whatever is said to you, that you tell the detective. Make sure that we know so that we can put that in the record and go forth from there.”

Fitzpatrick added, “It is important that crimes against people that are in our community are recognized for what they are, even though legally, they are not.”

Community members looking to get involved in anti-crime initiatives in the area can join the Washington Square West Civic Association’s new Town Watch program by emailing safety@washwestcivic.org

or calling 215-346-6411.

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