Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hate Crimes Against Homeless People

Since the tragic shootings in Sandy Hook, where a 20 year-old boy left 28 people dead, many of us have been thinking about the violence and brutality that has infected a slice of American society. There’s also a troubling trend of young males targeting vulnerable homeless people for violence.
A study recently released by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) documented 1,289 violent attacks targeting homeless people by non-homeless perpetrators from 1999 to 2011, with 339 of the attacks causing a death. They documented 105 attacks in 2011, causing 32 deaths, including the fatal beating of a 57 year-old homeless woman in New York City by a 20 year-old boy for no apparent reason. These are shocking figures especially because most attacks on homeless people go unreported or unrecorded.
NCH also studied the perpetrators.  They were mostly young men or boys; 73% were under 30 and 31% were teenagers, all perpetrating “crimes believed to be motivated by the perpetrator’s bias against homeless individuals or their ability to target homeless people with relative ease.” 
Homeless people are among the most vulnerable people in our society.  It breaks our hearts to think there’s a slice of American society that would target them for viscous beatings for no particular reason.  That’s why we appreciate the efforts of several New York State Senators in introducing the proposed “Homeless Protection Act” which would make it a hate crime to intentionally attack a person targeted because of the perception or belief that person is homeless. The legislation was introduced by New York State Senator Neil Breslin, and is co-sponsored by Senators Adams, Hassell-Thompson, Klein, Krueger, Parker, Perkins and Stavisky.