DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Law enforcement officials in Detroit are stepping up efforts to reach out to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender targets or victims of crime.
Wednesday night’s “LGBT community chat” followed two recent attacks on transgender women, but authorities said it was scheduled before the attacks. Detroit Police Chief James Craig said police believe many crimes targeting LGBT people go unreported.
“People in the LGBT community often don’t report crimes because there traditionally has not been a strong relationship with police,” Craig said. “We want to change that.”
Craig said he planned to establish an LGBT advisory board that would meet monthly. Shortly after arriving in Detroit in 2013, Craig appointed Officer Danielle Woods as LGBT liaison officer.
“We need information, and we know that the streets talk,” Craig said. “The only way we’re going to get information is if we have a strong relationship.”
Some said the fatal shooting Saturday near Palmer Park of a 20-year-old transgender woman the advocacy group Equality Michigan identified as Amber Monroe and Tuesday’s nonfatal shooting of a 30-year-old transgender woman gave the meeting a sense of urgency.
“We have a long history of mistrust and misunderstanding with law enforcement,” said Yvonne Siferd, director of victim services for Equality Michigan. “So it’s not going to be easy.”
The meeting took place at Palmer Park, an area where crime including prostitution is a known issue.
“There is trans prostitution, gay prostitution, biological women, it’s all up here … every night,” said Julisa Abad, a transgender woman who knew Monroe and attended the meeting. “I don’t know what has made this the central area for that, but that is, unfortunately, what it has become.”
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade promised to seek justice for gay or transgender victims of crime.
“We are committed to using the tools of our office to make a better life for everyone. That means everybody.”
Rebecca O’Hara, whose 25-year-old transgender son Ashton O’Hara was killed July 14, said the relationship is improving between Detroit police and the LGBT community.
“I’ve never felt more respected by the police,” O’Hara said. “They asked me if I wanted to refer to my son as male or female. And they caught my son’s killer.”
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