String of violent crimes prompts new Arlington initiative

Posted on 01 Apr 2016 at 7:35am

Two of three of gay man’s attackers arrested

Arlington-Rainbow-Star

Arlington’s low score of HRC’s Municipal Equality Index may not be a true reflection of the actual environment there for LGBT people. This rainbow-colored star is part of the Arlington Museum of Art’s “The Star of Texas” exhibit, which includes 20 fiberglass stars designed by local artist Chris Cunningham and positioned throughout Arlington’s Cultural Arts District, Downtown and Entertainment Districts. (Cassie Quinn/Dallas Voice Contributing Photographer)

 

JAMES RUSSELL  |  Staff Writer

Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson formed a city-wide task force late last month to address the uptick of violent attacks in the city, including a March 6 attack that left a gay man in a lot of pain and with a pile of hospital bills.

“Operation Safety Net targets gang members, known offenders and other criminals that commit violent offenses in Arlington,” Arlington police spokesman Christopher Cook wrote via e-mail.

“A lot of our violent crime is being driven by armed robberies. This surge of enforcement and covert resources will continue until we see a reversal in the trends on violent crime.”

A taskforce of department personnel from specialized units and patrol resources will connect data-driven intelligence with field personnel, Cook explained. This approach allows officers to have the most up-to-date information and commanders to deploy resources in hot spot locations where these crimes are most likely to occur.

“Arlington and other communities in North Texas are not immune to the uptick in violent offenses,” Chief Johnson said. “This taskforce will seek to identify and respond to robbery patterns by using effective crime analysis, to effectively target known offenders and gang members for effective enforcement in Arlington, and to collaborate with regional and federal partners to address criminals crossing jurisdictional boundaries.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Municipal Equality Index, which rates LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, Arlington received a final score of 22 out of 100 possible points. Arlington earned 17 points because law enforcement responsibly reports hate crimes and engages with the LGBT community.

But the low MEI score may not be an accurate reflection of the city’s environment for LGBT residents and employees.

Last year, the city contacted Fairness Fort Worth to discuss best practices to help transgender employees who want to transition on the job and how to answer questions or concerns fellow employees may have.

Fairness Fort Worth also provides cultural competence training for its police department and parks and recreation staff.

“We are excited to be able to facilitate this comprehensive training program that reinforces our oath of office and commitment to provide equal protection under the law for all persons,” Johnson told Dallas Voice last year. “The Arlington Police Department strives to promote equality and respect by providing procedural justice in both police-citizen encounters and in the workplace.”

Arrests made in assault
Matthew Gillispie, a 28-year old gay man living in North Arlington, was just one of the many victims of the increase in violent assaults. The fact that police already have two of the three suspects in that attack may indicate the crackdown is working.

North-Arlington-parking-lot

Matthew Gillispie was attacked March 6 in this North Arlington parking lot, near the intersection of Lamar and Cooper streets, after agreeing to meet someone there to sell some clothing. (James Russell/Dallas Voice)

Gillispie was attacked and robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart near his home after he arranged to resell some clothing via a smartphone application. He said he had planned to meet the customer about 10 p.m. in the parking lot on Collins Street, sell the clothing and deposit the money in time to pay his rent the next day.

But when he met the supposed customer, Gillispie noticed the man signal someone behind him, and that’s when two men grabbed him and threw him on the ground, holding him there at gunpoint.

“They said, ‘Give me everything,’” Gillispie said. His clothes, money, iPhone and, Gillispie said, his sense of safety were taken from him.

Gillispie said he wound up in the hospital for six hours. Police took his report about the attack the following day.

Police have so far arrested one adult and one juvenile suspected of assaulting Gillispie, according to Cook. Investigators have also identified a third suspect and are securing an arrest warrant.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2016.

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