In his article on Leroy Thomas, the aggressive panhandler (“Au Bon Panhandle,” 2/15), Brian Montopoli indicates his belief that Thomas’ tactics were stopped because of an activist and organized gay and lesbian community, and indicates that areas such as Adams Morgan cannot stop such blatant panhandling because they are less than active.
As a gay man, a resident of Adams Morgan, and a civic activist with more than three decades of service to numerous civic associations and my ANC, I must differ with Montopoli’s interpretation. I submit that Thomas was caught because there is a police unit dedicated to dealing with crimes against the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community.
By contrast, Adams Morgan has seen numerous changes in command, focus, and foot patrol in its police district. Changes in personnel are often not accompanied by a passing on of information about persistent and repeated criminal activities by individuals. Citizens are constantly rehashing tales of harassment, often able to use the names of the individuals who are doing the harassment to new officers, who are gone before they can take action against the perpetrators. It is consistency and vigilance by a police force that is what is most relevant in these cases.
In essence, although it is true that there is an active gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community, it is also true that an area such as Adams Morgan has a long history of activism from its businesses and community. It is the work of Sgt. Brett Parson and the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department that should be praised—and emulated.