“There’s absolutely no evidence at all to suggest that members of the LGBT community are being targeted,” Campos said. “We don’t want to put that fear out there because there is no justification for it. These assaults appear to be random crimes of opportunity motivated by robbery and nothing more.”
Mary’s manager Ben Cheaves said that although his customers have talked about the recent crime, it hasn’t affected business.
“I think everyone has some concerns about the robberies and shootings but people are still coming in to the club and having a good time. Our neighbors around us are very involved in what’s going on in this community and they want to help straighten things out,” Cheaves said. “They’ve been asking the city of Atlanta to get more patrols set up and are excellent in disseminating information to everyone.”
In response to these serious crimes as well as neighborhood requests, Campos said Atlanta police have stepped up their patrols in the village to deter any further violence.
“These cases are high on our radar screen,” he said. “We have definitely increased patrols and placed an emphasis on trying to solve these crimes.”
Campos said investigators were busy comparing notes and analyzing the incidents and evidence to see what similarities and patterns might exist. He notes that several units in the department are working on the cases.
“We’re bringing in our community liaison unit, our motorcycle unit, as well as other units from different zones to assist in increasing our visibility in this particular area,” he said.
Tips to avoid danger
Walking late at night seems to be a common link to these crimes.
“A lot of these robberies are targeting people on foot who have smart phones and things like that” Campos said. “Right now, it would not be wise to walk down the street late at night with an iPhone in your hand or up to your ear. We never want to seem like we’re blaming the victim but there are things that people can do to make themselves less of a target for these criminals.
“Even though some of the crimes have happened to groups of two or three people, your chances of becoming a victim of a crime like this are greatly decreased when you walk in a group,” he said.
In addition, Campos advises bar patrons to “be mindful of your surroundings as much as possible. Drink responsibly. Sometimes, people lose some of their faculties when they drink too much. People should keep their wits about them and know where they are at all times. Also, consider taking a taxi home, especially if you are leaving at 2 or 3 in the morning.”
Cheaves has seen the benefits of taxis to his customers and thinks that Mary’s may try to help add a new layer of security by making it easier for people to get a cab quickly.
“In order to have taxis more readily available, we are thinking about designating some parking spaces in our lot to be a taxi stand,” he said. “People who walk to the bar can then get a ride home without worrying about walking back alone late at night.”
“No matter what neighborhood you’re in,” Cheaves added, “be aware of your surroundings and don’t walk alone late at night.”
Top photo: Mary’s, a popular East Atlanta gay bar that always draws crowds, is considering adding a taxi stand to help patrons avoid walking late at night. Several recent crimes have put the neighborhood on increased alert. (Photo by Dyana Bagby)