After three gay men were found strangled to death in New York City, city leaders are urging people to be cautious when meeting someone for the first time.
The latest victim, Joseph Benzinger, 54, was found strangled to death late Saturday night at the Crown Motor Inn in Elmhurst.
David Rangel, 54, was discovered dead in his Jackson Heights apartment on 26 January.
Two days later, Charles Romo, 48, was found tied up with a bag over his head in his apartment in Hamilton Heights, Manhattan.
While police say there is no reason to believe these deaths are connected, they have said there is also no reason to rule that possibility out.
City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who is openly gay, told New York Daily News people need to exercise extreme caution when using online dating sites.
‘It’s frightening,’ he said. ‘I fear that there could be somebody out there targeting gay men.’
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is also openly gay, expressed her condolences to the families of the victims and urged the gay community to protect itself.
‘The perpetrators must be apprehended and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,’ she said.
The Anti-Violence Project released a statement saying they were also deeply concerned about the homicides and passed along their condolences to family and friends of the victims.
Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City AVP, said: ‘We want to make sure that LGBTQ people and all New Yorkers are aware of all forms of violence affecting our communities, including dating or let them know about AVP’s safety information and support.’
Anyone with information on the murders can call the NYPD Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.