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Countywide Focus

Assaults on Gays Down in Last Year

February 01, 1995|DUNCAN MARTELL

Incidents of assault or harassment of gays and lesbians in Ventura County have dropped by nearly two-thirds in the last year, according to statistics gathered by a county gay and lesbian organization.

But Neil Demers-Grey of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Ventura, who based the figures on telephone calls to community hotlines and on about 450 questionnaires mailed to GLCC members, said he fears many incidents have gone unreported.

He said there were 36 incidents in 1994, which were broken down into four categories: verbal or physical harassment (28); threats or menacing (3); property destruction (4); and unethical police detainment (1). In 1993, he said, there were 92 incidents.

Less media attention on gays and lesbians and decreased funding of the committee established to tally the number of incidents were the two factors Demers-Grey cited for the change.

"These figures are probably the tip of the iceberg," he said. "If we had 28 cases of verbal harassment, that's probably 1% of what actually went on."

Reporting is the key, said Kevin McGee, chief assistant district attorney for the county. "There may be incidents, but whether this office would ever see the case is another issue altogether," he said. "When they do occur and are reported, we take them very seriously."

The Ventura County Sheriff's Department was not required by state law to compile statistics on hate crimes until Jan. 1 of this year, said Vern Cook, a crime analyst for the sheriff's department.

"We're going to begin to report on hate crimes," he said. "But this is a very complex reporting mechanism, and we're going to do it right."

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