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October 20, 2015

Following Philly killing, transgender violence hard to track

Data is incomplete, but activists call for small steps

LGBT Transgender
Keisha Jenkins Tatted Godess Kesh/Facebook

Keisha Jenkins, a transgender woman, was murdered in North Philadelphia.

Earlier this month, a transgender woman was fatally shot in North Philadelphia after being brutally beaten.

The victim, Keisha Jenkins, 22, was not the victim of a hate crime, according to police.

"This is not a hate crime at all," said Capt. James Clark of the Philadelphia Police Department's homicide unit after arresting a suspect in the case. "It's a sad and senseless murder."

While police say the group that beat and killed Jenkins were simply prowling the streets looking for people to rob, the incident did mark a somber milestone: she was at least the 19th transgender woman killed in the United States this year, and at least the 16th of color.

Earlier this week in Maryland, a 21-year-old African-American transgender woman shot in Maryland increased that tally.

The deaths have raised concerns over violence targeted toward transgender women. Yet, according to a Vox piece Tuesday, hazy statistics make the trend is difficult to track.

The article notes that figuring out just how many transgender people are in the United States is tricky; tracking violence against them is harder.

Incomplete data does show disproportionately high levels of attacks on transgender women, Chai Jindasurat of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs told the website:

"Within [LGBTQ and HIV-affected populations], we see a disproportionate impact of violence against transgender women of color, particularly when it comes to homicide," Jindasurat said. "For a number of years, a majority of homicide victims have been trans women of color."

But because the total trangender population is unknown, and because it is unclear how often crime reports do not include whether a person identifies as transgender or not, it's difficult to reach definite conclusions.

Yet while the data remains imperfect, a number of local activists told CBS Philly following Jenkins' death that grassroots efforts can help chip away at the issue.

A number of self-identifying transgender women told the news station that better acceptance and job opportunities could help prevent the population from entering high-risk occupations – such as sex work – and feeling distanced from society.