Killers Stalk Homeless On USA Streets FWD

Tom Boland (
Sat, 25 Dec 1999 03:43:23 -0800 (PST)

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What is facism?
A) Rule by the financial elite,
B) Tough Love Compassion (or)
C) A if you're against facism, B if you're for it.
FWD  International Herald Tribune - Paris - Friday, December 24, 1999


     By Evelyn Nieves New York Times Service

 In Denver, five were pummeled to death and two more beheaded. In Richmond,
Virginia, one was beaten, stabbed and beheaded, his head then carried
nearly a mile and placed for display on a footbridge. In Seattle, one was
stabbed 18 times, another beaten bloody, then stabbed.

 There were others. One in Dallas, pelted with bullets from a 12-gauge
shotgun for rummaging through trash. One in Chico, California, beaten to
death for begging for spare change. Three in Portland, Oregon, strangled
for who knows what.

 They were all homeless people killed over the last year. And these were
just the killings that made the news. Exactly how many homeless people have
been victims of savage attacks is unknown. Police departments do not
tabulate crimes against homeless people, and in many cases, such as several
beatings that have frightened the large homeless population in San
Francisco, those who survive attacks often do not report them.

 What appears certain, advocates for the homeless say, is that living on
the streets is becoming more dangerous. In the last few years, police
departments across the country have reported more frequent, more vicious
attacks on those who are homeless. Nearly always, the victims are ambushed
as they sleep. Nearly as often, the suspects, who are not always caught,
are described as young men who appear to attack for no reason. In some
cases, suspects call it ''bum-bashing'' or ''troll-busting,'' police and
advocates for the homeless say.

 Attacks against homeless people rarely get attention, but nationally,
violence against people who are unsheltered is becoming so common that the
National Coalition for the Homeless is asking Congress to consider
''homeless people'' as a maligned minority, or protected class, in drafting
any new legislation against hate crimes.

 ''There have always been isolated instances of homeless people being set
on fire,'' said Michael Stoops, a community organizer for the National
Coalition. ''But what we're seeing now is a trend. And what's most
disturbing is that the likely suspects continue to be young people.''

 Based on news reports, the coalition has counted 29 homeless people who
were killed in 1999 in 11 cities, from San Francisco to Richmond. It listed
six others who barely survived attacks. The youngest suspects in these
cases were 14 years old, and most were under 21.

 No one can say for sure why young people in particular seem to be
attacking homeless people in increasing numbers. But looking at arrests in
cases of violence against homeless people over several years, by far the
majority of the suspects were young teenagers, or even pre-teenage boys,
who bragged about the attacks afterward.

 In Seattle, for example, a 14-year-old middle school student was convicted
in March in the death of a 50-year-old homeless man. The youth struck the
victim repeatedly with a skateboard, robbed him, then stabbed him to death
with a pocket knife. He was caught a week later, when witnesses told police
he had been boasting about killing a ''bum.''

 In that same city, three teenagers were charged in August with the murder
of a 46-year-old homeless man as he tried to sleep beneath an interstate
overpass. Prosecutors said that one told friends, ''Let's just say there's
one less bum on the face of the earth.''

 John Urquhart, a spokesman for the King County Sheriff's Office, which
covers Seattle, said he believed that the homeless were singled out
probably because they are accessible, anonymous and stigmatized as
''throwaways of society.''<P>
 Many advocates for the homeless say crackdowns on homeless people for
sitting, sleeping or lying in public spaces are a significant factor in the
increased attacks.

 In Chicago, a homeless man was doused with a flammable chemical and set
aflame as he slept on a park bench in July. He suffered third-degree burns.
John Donahue, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless,
said that he had noticed more of these kinds of attacks with the increased
gentrification of the city, the fencing of lower Wacker Drive, where an
encampment of homeless people had lived undisturbed for years, and the
increased police enforcement of laws designed to keep people off the

 ''It's the underpinning of these hate crimes,'' he said. ''It legitimizes
them because these people don't count. These people are criminals for being
poor - that's what the official position is saying about these people.''

 Mr. Stoops of the National Coalition said that when he visits high schools
and asks students what they think about homeless people, they often call
them bums and drunks who are too lazy to work.

 ''We're obviously sending a message to our young people that homeless
people are not worthy of their respect,'' he said.

There are, of course, instances where homeless people are murdered simply
because they provide convenient targets for a deranged person. Such was the
case in San Francisco last year, when a man who believed he was a vampire
slashed the throats of four homeless people, one fatally, and then drank
their blood.

 In other cases, such as one in San Francisco this year where a homeless
man standing on a corner was killed by a bullet meant for someone else, the
victim is a bystander. And because many people on the streets are mentally
ill or drug addicted or both, they are easier to victimize and harder to
help, the police say, since they are often unable to describe the time and
place of their attacks or their attackers.

 The only comprehensive survey done on violence against homeless people was
a study in New York City in 1994. The survey found that 80 percent of
homeless people had been victims of violent crime.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**

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