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October 10, 2008

Citizen patrols, cameras proposed
in bar areas

Police, councilors meet with community in wake of summer attacks

Cleveland--In response to several attacks on gay men during the summer, members of City Council and the Cleveland Police Department met with more than 60 citizens to discuss the safety of the city’s LGBT community.

The October 7 town hall meeting, hosted by the Cleveland LGBT Center and the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, brought together Cleveland councilors Joe Cimperman, Zachary Reed, Jay Westbrook, Matt Zone, and Lakewood’s Nickie Antonio, as well as representatives from the mayor’s office and local business owners.

The discussion outlined safety initiatives for areas where gay men have been targeted for violent robberies.

The importance of reporting any crime was reiterated numerous times, with Police Commanders Thomas McCartney and Keith Sulzer adding that Cleveland police are specially trained to handle hate crimes.

The commanders, who oversee the First and Second districts where the attacks have taken place, spoke about some victims’ fears that police reports are public record.

“If you don’t want to be outed, ask police to leave details about sexual orientation out of the report,” Second District Commander Sulzer said. “We are there to protect you. We are there for you.”

Increased police patrols and the replacement of 39 streetlight bulbs have already taken place in the Ohio City neighborhood that houses the Tool Shed bar. These steps are beginning to take place in the neighborhood of Detroit and West 112th Street, surrounding the Hawk bar.

Sue Doerfer, executive director of the Cleveland LGBT Center, proposed the development of organized citizen patrols and a network of volunteers to distribute safety information to local business.

Crime cameras, both on public streets and private property, such as bar fronts, were discussed as options in particularly troubled areas.

In an effort to prevent discrimination, more sensitivity training in schools, churches, and federal institutions were suggestions from several citizens.

Monthly meetings were a final resolution of the discussion, with the purpose of future meetings to maintain communication and outline “action steps” that can be taken to promote prevention and alertness within the community. 

Sue Doerfer warned of delays that could occur when making a 911 call from a cell phone, noting that the signal does not go immediately to the local dispatcher. She advised keeping the direct number for the Cleveland Police Department, 216-6211234, on speed dial.

Councilor Jay Westbrook alluded to the stabbing death of Kelsey Stanton near the Hawk in June. He also said after the meeting, he would visit the West 117th Street site near Clifton where Edward Makar was beaten on August 30.

Jon Brittain, a victim of an August beating and attempted carjacking near the Tool Shed, spoke about the resistance he encountered from gay establishments themselves, denying that the issue affected them.

Two suspects have been charged with Stanton’s murder, but no arrests have been made in the Brittain case. Police spoke optimistically about Makar’s case, following leads related to calls made from Makar’s stolen cell phone.

BRAVO will soon begin to offer a series of street safety workshops and self-defense classes at the Cleveland LGBT Center.

Notification about future meetings and information about BRAVO’s programs will be available on the Cleveland LGBT Center’s website or by joining their email list.

To report broken street lights, call 216-6215483 (621LITE).

This material is copyrighted by the Gay People’s Chronicle. Permission is given only to repost the headline, byline, and one or two paragraphs, with the full name of the Gay People’s Chronicle and a link to the full article on our website. Reproduction of the entire article is prohibited without specific written permission.

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