PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- According to the most recent FBI data, there were more than 400 reported hate crimes committed against members of the LGBTQ community nationwide in 2021.
Increased tracking has helped record the incidents, and locally it could be the key to solving more of those crimes.
Last week, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office announced an arrest in the case of a transgender woman attacked in Kensington in 2022. It's an arrest that would have been harder to make without a new tool that the district attorney's office has implemented.
"A lot of times people don't want to deal with the police directly immediately," said Kelly Burkhardt, who serves as the LBTQ+ liaison for the Philadelphia DA's Office. "We're working on breaking through those barriers."
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The office's LGBTQ+ Crime Tracker helped ensure the Kensington attack victim was treated appropriately as a transgender woman, which is more than can be said for Kendall Stephens.
"I was victimized in a very brutal hate crime," recalled Stephens of the 2020 attack that happened at her front doorstep.
A group of people beat her and singled her out as a transgender woman.
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"I was not protected. I was not served and that is par for the course when you are someone who is LGBTQ+ identified," said Stephens, who is now an LGBTQ+ rights advocate and executive board member of the William Way Center.
According to the DA's office, 34% of the cases charged involving LGBTQ+ people were for aggravated assault followed by other violent crimes. Often times the crimes involve domestic partners.
The Crime Tracker was implemented in 2020 to establish better treatment and solve more cases.
"It's based off of keywords to identify information that's coming through the police reports," said Burkhardt.
Those keywords have been the key to 46% of the alerts that the district attorney's office gets involving crimes in the LGBT community. It makes it almost just as powerful as word of mouth and media, which bring forth 54% of the cases.
According to the DA's LGBTQ+ Liaison Office, over two years the Crime Tracker has yielded a 58% increase in appropriately identifying people involved in criminal cases in the LGBTQ+ community.
It's a significant figure for Tyrell Brown, who is the executive of the nonprofit organization Galaei, which does social justice work on behalf of LGBTQ+ people of color.
"When you reach out to the liaison at the district attorney, what you're getting is someone who will see you as your whole self," said Brown.
It leads to more trust and a better chance of solving crimes in the LGBTQ+ community.
"That linkage is what gets us the kind of care we need and deserve," said Brown.
In addition to more timely outreach to LGBTQ+ victims, the DA's office says it's also seeing improved communication with police.