Holiday hookup tips offered
by Peter Hernandez
An array of crime reduction techniques from testing drinks for drugs to sending photos of a date to a friend were presented at a panel discussion in light of recent crimes in the Castro neighborhood as well as the murder of a gay man earlier this year.
The December 10 panel responded to crime in the Castro, where dates via social networking sites like Grindr and Adam4Adam have turned fateful or where younger men have reportedly drugged older men and robbed them.
"We know that [during] the holidays, there's more traffic in bars and public spaces. It's okay to go out, and it's okay to have fun, but be very careful," said District Attorney George Gasc—n.
The informal eight-person panel was hosted by Magnet, the gay men's health center, and also featured speakers from Castro Community On Patrol, the San Francisco Police Department and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Three recent homicides remained a centerpiece of the event: Philip DiMartino, who was murdered in 2010 after likely meeting his murderer at happy hour at Badlands; Freddy Canul-Arguello, whose charred body was found in a recycling bin in Buena Vista Park in 2011 after an encounter at the Cafe; and Steven "Eriq" Escalon, who was found dead and robbed in his Diamond Heights apartment earlier this year. (Arrests have been made in the Canul-Arguello and Escalon cases.)
In all these situations, "the common denominator was that it was a quick hookup," said Greg Carey, director of operations and outreach for CCOP.
He urged people to send a photo of their date to oneself or a friend, that way the image wouldn't just be on the phone, which would likely be stolen during a crime.
Whether drugged or robbed, the panel showed a disparity exists between those who think they know how to date safely and those who, due to shame or embarrassment, accept the prevalence of drugged drinks and dates gone awry.
When asked about how many incidences involve drugged drinks, Carey said that his group doesn't know the exact number because people are often too embarrassed to report the crime.
"Shame has plagued our community forever," said Troy Sanders, public safety coordinator for Project SAFE. "People say, 'I should have known better.' But we need to make our voices heard – it's exerting that right that brought us to where we are today."
Oftentimes, date rapes, robberies, or assaults are complicated by whether the victim is openly gay or if they felt that the crime was avoidable. But the panelists encouraged victims to come forward with all information they have, if not for themselves then to help prevent another crime.
"If you're a victim, we want you to tell us," said openly gay San Francisco Police Inspector Lenny Broberg. He said that most of the department's officers are trained for LGBT sensitivity and would be responsive to any complaint.
Victims are encouraged to file a police report as soon as possible and to ask for their case number after describing their circumstances, and to then preserve evidence by not showering or to save their clothes in a bag to maintain any traces of DNA.
Then, the victim should go to an emergency room for a blood draw to find traces of drugs, even if the drug was taken voluntarily.
People were also reminded to pay attention to their drinks while in bars. Napkins are expected to be distributed in bars that will read, "Keep your friends close, keep your drink closer."
A Genentech biologist, Brandon Bravo, 31, recently came out after attending Folsom Street Fair this year. The tips he learned from the evening aided his entrance into gay dating.
"It's a funny change, because I never felt threatened when dating women. But it's a shift with guys bigger than me, wherever we end up," he said.
Castro Community on Patrol, a volunteer organization now in its sixth year, printed 100,000 copies of "The Clubber's Guide," which promotes safe clubbing tips like avoiding pickpocketing or alerting authorities about unconscious partiers.
Monday's discussion was coordinated by the San Francisco LGBT Forum.
Holiday hookup tips offered
Castro Community on Patrol has some suggestions if you think you were drugged. More can be read at www.castropatrol.org.
• Check for signs of unwanted sexual contact, such as pain or blood in your sexual areas, body fluids on beds or furniture, soiled towels, or used condoms.
• You or a friend should call the police at 911 as quickly as possible, especially if the suspect is near you or if you have life-threatening conditions.
• If the person is gone, even if you are missing property, call the non-emergency police phone number at (415) 553-0123.
• Ask the dispatcher for a CAD or case number to tie your report to a later investigation.
• Preserve DNA evidence by not showering and bagging the clothes you wake up in.
• Have a friend drive you to an emergency room for a blood draw. Even if you took the drugs voluntarily, you're testing for crimes against you.
• Tell the hospital staff that you may have been sexually assaulted and ask that they collect evidence in a rape kit. Use your case number to contact the district attorney's victim services unit at (415) 553-9044.
SF Emergency: 911 or (415) 553-8090
SF Non-Emergency: (415) 553-0123
SFPD Anonymous Tips: (415) 575-4444
District Attorney/Victim Services: (415) 553-9044