Three openly gay men have been murdered in Queens over the last two weeks, granting causality for concern from the LGBT community.
Council Member Daniel Dromm, whose district has seen two of these most recent murders within the gay community, including school teacher David Rangal in his home on Feb. 3 in Jackson Heights and most recently Middle Village resident Joseph Benzinger at Crown Motel on Queens Boulevard on Feb. 10.
“This is an emotional thing for me as an openly gay official, to hear of these types of crimes happening in my district,” Dromm said, standing in front of the Queens Boulevard motel where Benzinger was found strangled to death on Sunday. “There have been people who target the LGBT community,simply because they think we are a vulnerable people.”
The two deaths, along with the currently unsolved October murder of Lou Rispoli in Sunnyside and the case of Charles Romo, also a member of the LGBT community recently found dead in his Hamilton Heights apartment on Feb. 28, only adds to Dromm’s urgency for a rapid solution to the issue, urging the NYPD “to use every resource it has to solve these crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice swiftly.”
“We need to express extreme caution when dating,” Dromm advised. “Often times people are meeting someone from online, and they’re not quite sure of the personality of that person and they can’t get a feel for that person.”
Also in response to the recent string of killings in the borough, Ejeris Dixon, deputy director in charge of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, urged the community to stay safe from violence while dating online and provided advice on how to receive support if violence does occur.
She suggests creating a safety plan by letting someone else know about their dating plans, keep a digital timeline with pictures and web posts throughout the date, meet in public and stay aware of your own personal limits.
“We know that dating is not inherently violent, but it is stigma, and it is homophobia and transphobia that cause violence,” Dixon explained. “These tragic incidents show us that our community not only deserves safety, but that we can create safety.”