Philly DA’s crime tracking system shows LGBTQ domestic violence remains a major problem

By Michele Zipkin

PHILADELPHIA CREAM – In an effort to provide better resources to victims and defendants, staff members of the Victim Services Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office used an LGBTQ+ arrest identification sheet to identify crimes in the queer community.

Since the Victim Services team, led by District Attorney Larry Krasner, began using the tracking system in November 2020, it has helped them accurately identify 53 arrests involving members of the LGBTQ community.

Those 53 arrests generated 54 municipal court cases, 81% of which are domestic violence cases, said Kelly Burkhardt, the office’s liaison and LGBTQ+ victim services coordinator.

At 37%, aggravated assault is the most common primary charge in these incidents.

“What it really speaks to is a lot of anxieties, frustrations, not being able to manage their anger, various things with communication,” Burkhardt told the Philadelphia Gay News.

Krasner’s office senior data analyst, Tyler Tran, played a lead role in designing the arrest identification sheet. Each night, the tracking tool crawls through arrests made the previous day, “looking” for designated keywords such as “gay”, “lesbian”, “transgender” and others. If any of the keywords appear, the tool sends an email to Burkhardt, Tran, and another DAO staff member.

The tracking tool helped identify LGBTQ-related crimes with about 55% accuracy, Burkhardt and Tran said. This percentage is partly due to words that sometimes trigger the slip that have nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation or gender. Of that 55%, Burkhardt is working on 58 active cases, including 10 non-fatal shooting cases and 27 domestic violence cases. But the 55% accuracy makes it difficult to assess trends in LGBTQ-related crimes.

Philly’s transgender community speaks out on domestic abuse

“We don’t know what the spreadsheet isn’t picking up, we don’t know what’s missing,” Tran said. “We can say that 75% of our alerts are for domestic violence, that doesn’t necessarily mean that 75% of incidents involving the queer community are domestic violence.”

Regardless of the exact percentages, however, the number of recent domestic violence cases led Burkhardt to consult with the DA’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee for input on finding stronger resources where she can direct victims of domestic violence and abuse. marital.

“We absolutely need more [resources]“, Burkhardt said. She cited WOAR – Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence and Women Against Abuse as helpful organizations with LGBTQ programs.

“[In Philadelphia] We lack adequate services that are centralized and able to have the capacity to support us mentally, to put early intervention strategies in place, to really give us a way out,” said Sappho Reynan Fulton, MA, MSW, who sits on the LGBTQ+ advisory committee. She works as a clinical director with the organization Why Not Prosper, runs a private psychology practice, and is CEO of the nonprofit Sappho and LaRoyce Foundation, where she works to eradicate domestic violence involving QTBIPOC people.

Health assessment shows disparities in Pennsylvania’s LGBTQ community | To analyse

Fulton described the process of getting help in domestic violence cases as disruptive and retraumatizing — calling 911, leaving the house, filing a restraining order against the person who abused, who is also usually someone that the victim likes, then figure out where to go from there.

“Most likely, 100% of the time, our trans people have nowhere to go,” Fulton said. “Right now, the main thing I see we need above all else is a place where our woman and our trans men [who are experiencing DV] may have somewhere to go. She pointed out that there are no resources in Philadelphia for trans men with children, who, like trans women, also experience high rates of domestic violence.

As for solutions, “we have to reinvent the demand and the why,” Fulton said. “What are we looking for, why do we need it and how do we need to develop it? We really need to strategically consider a long term stay, how can this exist in the long term. Trans people barely have jobs, most of them have social security, they have no income to pay their own rent. So we need funding for a general operation to work.

While the arrest ID doesn’t reflect an increase in gun violence among LGBTQ communities in Philadelphia, “it’s definitely there too,” Burkhardt said. She referred to a trans man who was shot just over a month ago, who previously suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“What’s going on with a lot of criminals, from what I understand you’re looking after your own personal safety – ‘do I have a place to live, do I have a place to live, is ‘Someone going to run over me'” Burhardt said. “It always seems to be about physics because when you experience trauma, you go into this fight, flight, or freeze thing. It’s all about life or death.

Rates of gun violence in Philadelphia reflect the national discourse on violence toward trans people, especially trans people of color, Burkhardt pointed out.

Another obstacle to identifying LGBTQ-related crimes: The first police reports Burkhardt receives don’t always contain information about the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. She said she spoke with Sergeant Nick Tees, an LGBTQ liaison for the Philadelphia Police Department, about asking PPD officers to identify the victim’s sexual orientation and/or gender during of writing reports.

Another method to help detect LGBTQ-related crimes is for community members to contact the Victim Services Unit. “The old school method of, they would call Deja Alvarez [co-chair of the Philadelphia Police LGBTQ Liaison Committee]Deja call me, I would contact our lawyers or our prosecution unit to see what is happening with these cases,” Burkhardt said.

Tran echoed Burkhardt’s sentiment, explaining that the tracker is no substitute for building community partnerships.

“I think I hope it helped some, but not all problems are technological problems, and not all solutions will be technological,” he said. “Hopefully the two ways we’ve done this can work well together.”

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