People in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities say the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program can jeopardize their lives, saying the tactic can lead to the spread of deadly diseases. NY1’s Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Johanna Valesquez is transgender, and said she was unlawfully stopped and frisked, and then arrested, for simply having condoms.
“They opened my purse without permission, they found two condoms, and they submitted that as evidence,” Valesquez said through an interpreter. “They didn’t give me any further explanation. When I went to court, I was charged with prostitution and offering services for $100, which is untrue.”
Several groups [including a group of members from Make the Road New York] rallied at City Hall Friday, saying that LGBT communities are being targeted by the New York City Police Department with stop-and-frisk.
They said they’re outraged that the New York City Health Department gives out free condoms and community groups legally hand out clean syringes to help prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, but that police are arresting people for prostitution or drug use simply if they have condoms or needles.
“Fifty percent of the people that we interviewed said they don’t carry condoms because of this discriminatory practice,” said Chris Bilal of Streetwise and Safe.
“New York is distributing some 35 million condoms,” said Margaret Wurth of Human Rights Watch. “This city devotes enormous resources to this campaign, but then these police practices take condoms out of the hands of those who need them the most.”
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said prostitution and sex trafficking won’t be tolerated.
“Arrests for prostitution or promoting prostitution are based on probable cause, and never solely on the presence of condoms, but the presence of condoms can be a relevant piece of evidence that prosecutors use to prove the case,” Browne said.
But one sex education worker said she was searched and picked up by police because she had several safe sex kits.
“So they just grabbed me up and took me to the precinct, start asking me questions,” said Arianna Silva of Citywide Harm Reduction.
She said she was let go because officers realized she wasn’t a sex worker.
To view the video, click here.