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With a mix of blunt honesty, cheerfulness and quick-witted humor, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier charmed the members of the DC Log Cabin Republicans at the group’s April 18 meeting, during which she spoke candidly about MPD’s efforts to combat overall crime, and, more specifically, crimes with a bias motivation.
Lanier told the assembled audience at the Camden Roosevelt on 16th Street NW that there were two factors contributing to many recent crimes committed against members of the LGBT community: perception of affluence and gentrification. She said many of the bias crimes result from LGBT victims being targeted because of a belief such victims will have money or other valuables; while other bias attacks are sparked by longtime District residents believing that newcomers are taking over their neighborhoods or taking economic opportunities from them.
”Predators are going to go where they perceive they’ll be the most successful,” she said. ”Criminals don’t change. Their motivations stay the same.”
As an example, she cited previous robberies of Latino workers, who she said were singled out because of the perception that they were in the country illegally. As a result, criminals assumed Latinos would be unable to open bank accounts and were therefore more likely to be carrying large amounts of cash. A robber might also believe, Lanier said, undocumented residents and would be less likely to go to police for fear of revealing their immigration status.
Lanier also said similar assumptions have played a role in the targeting of transgender women, because criminals may think they are prostitutes, assume they will not report any incidents to police, or just perceive them to be weaker or easier targets.
Lanier praised a March 20 grassroots-organized march against hate crimes, saying it was ”one of the most amazing things” she’d seen because it galvanized huge cross-sections of different communities within the District.
But Lanier also told the group that police need help in tracking and preventing bias crimes by having victims report anti-LGBT incidents or those in which homophobic or transphobic slurs or threats are uttered, to the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU), even if they do not rise to the level of crime.
Lanier stressed that reporting even minor incidents was important because, although not prosecutable, they provide police with information about what’s going on, allowing MPD to target areas where potential hate crimes may occur and prevent them from happening by increasing police presence.
Lanier also told the Log Cabin members to sign up for their individual Police District email lists, which enables community members to report suspicious activity and receive updates on area crime.
”The listserv is one of the single best ways to find out what’s happening in the neighborhoods,” Lanier said. ”It’s a way that you can share information that might seem innocuous, but helps us put the dots together.”
Taking questions from the audience, Lanier spoke about her attempts to get phone companies to help lessen the thefts of smartphones, the department’s efforts to track crimes, MPD’s relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in prosecuting crimes, and her efforts to reform internal procedures within MPD.
Lanier also voiced her disdain for ”Prostitution Free Zones.”
”It’s the city’s attempt at no-loitering laws,” she told the group. ”It’s saying, ‘I have a reasonable belief that you are going to commit a crime – move on.’ It makes us put in lots of effort for little result.”
Most Log Cabin members told Metro Weekly afterward that they were highly impressed with Lanier.
”I wish she’d run for mayor,” one man was overheard saying. Then, quickly rethinking it, he said, ”But it’s probably better that you don’t know the police chief’s political beliefs.”
Robert Turner, president of Log Cabin, said he was grateful that Lanier was able to appear in person.
”When I made the ask, I didn’t actually think we’d get the chief,” Turner said. ”I know Gertrude Stein had a deputy come speak to them, but she had the time, and she was willing to speak with us. We’re very thrilled about it.”