MARCH 04, 08:36 EST

Group: Anti-Gay Violence Rises

 Associated Press Writer

 NEW YORK (AP) -- As the media focused more attention on homosexuals last year,
 anti-gay violence and harassment also increased, a gay advocacy group said.

 The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs said Tuesday that the number of such
 incidents it counted around the country increased by 2 percent in 1997 over the
 previous year.

 The coalition attributed the rise to publicity surrounding events such as gay pride
 celebrations in June, the bombing of a gay nightclub in Atlanta and the episode of
 ``Ellen'' in which the TV character came out as a lesbian.

 ``Tragically, there appears to be a direct correlation between the community's
 heightened visibility and an upsurge in violence,'' said Christine Quinn, executive director
 of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project.

 The coalition's figures are obtained from local gay groups that track crimes against
 homosexuals, bisexuals and people who cross gender lines in their dress or physical
 characteristics. The report is not based on police statistics and only includes 14
 metropolitan areas.

 The coalition says it offers important information because, spokesman Michael Rosano
 said, ``People who are victims of bias-related violence will call us before they call the

 ``Yes, someone should use some caution when looking at this report and not feel it's a
 complete map of the violence that's happening to us -- but you can still draw some
 conclusions about the trends in violence,'' said Jennifer Rakowski of Community United
 Against Violence in San Francisco.

 According to the report, there were 2,445 documented cases of anti-gay violence and
 harassment last year in the 14 areas, which include New York, San Francisco and Los
 Angeles. The number of murders related to anti-gay violence dropped to 18 in 1997
 from 27 in 1996, the report said.

 New York City had the most reports of anti-homosexual violence (658), followed by the
 San Francisco Bay area (402) and Los Angeles (350). More than a third of the cases
 involved harassment -- verbal or by mail or phone. About one-fifth involved assault, and
 close to a third intimidation.

 New York Police Department figures show the number of gay bias incidents in the city
 dropping to 59 in 1997 from 61 in 1996. Police Commissioner Howard Safir said the
 coalition's figures lacked any uniform system of reporting.

 Among the more brutal examples of harassment is that of a gay Chicago man who
 reported a year's worth of violent assaults by an elderly neighbor. One night, he said,
 she attacked him with garden shears, cut him 22 times and yelled ``die of AIDS...''.

 Police response was indifferent to hostile, the report said, with officers once threatening
 to arrest the victim if he kept complaining. Eventually the neighbor was charged with
 misdemeanor assault.