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Homicides in San Francisco

Many readers may find this information quite interesting. In the early 1970’s gay people flocked to the City of San Francisco as a place of refuge from the stifling oppression in other parts of the country. As the gay community emerged, so did the killings of GLBT people. But, was there a pattern to these killings?

Researchers at Ohio State University worked to develop a database that could be used to understand long-term trends in homicide. Their data incidentally include information on homicides of GLBT people. Little of the gay data has been analyzed to date, however researchers at the Center have put this chart together to take a preliminary look at prevalence which has been part on an ongoing interest with us. To see the chart, click on the link at the bottom of this article.

This 1970’s data reflect a period in which the gay community was only then emerging in the Castro District of San Francisco. At the time the Modern Gay Movement was just emerging. Also right about then were the serial killer panics of the mid-1970’s. People started making up names for the supposed offenders and the newspapers were quick to cover these sensational stories. The benefit of their reporting was to show how dangerous it was to be gay, or to practice homosexuality. Even heterosexual homicides were blamed on alleged homosexual serial killers. The funny part was that the victims were mostly females, not males. The etiology of typical serial homicide (though not all serial homicide) is one of a sexual motivation. The sex homicides were the ones getting all the publicity due to the brutal and bizarre nature of these killings.

Killings were occurring in the gay districts in the 70’s, some of which would even qualify for the term hate-crime had the law been in existence back in the day. This fearful sense that gay people were being preyed upon, first by rogue heterosexuals, and now by serial killers, was contagious. Most gay male homicides have a certain similarity that is quite different than heterosexual homicide. They occur all across the nation, year-after-year in similar ways. Most are not the result of serial homicide however, but rather shaped by the context in which gay homicides occur. A significant portion of the murders are the result of shame attacks following homosexual activity.


The Center for Homicide Research offers one of the finest internship programs in the United States. Distanced-based electronic internships begin in Fall of 2020. Qualifying students come from undergraduate, graduate and law schools.

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