CFC # 10844

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INTRODUCTION

In October of 2004, three Milwaukee teens murdered a homeless man at his forest campsite. The teens hit 49-year-old Rex Baum, with rocks, a flashlight, and a pipe, before smearing feces on his face and covering his body with leaves and plastic. According to the criminal report, one of the boys “hit the victim one last time to see if he would make a sound like in Grand Theft Auto,” and then cut him several times with a knife to make sure he was dead. 

In August, Curtis Gordon Adams, 33, beat and stabbed a disabled homeless man to death, and then licked the blood from his fingers on a Denver sidewalk.

In June, two New York City teens, kicked, punched, and finally bludgeoned 51-year-old William Pearson to death in a churchyard. Pearson crawled to the church steps before finally dying of a fractured skull. “His head was a bloody mess,” one police officer noted. 

Sadly, these gruesome accounts are few of many, which demonstrate the hate / violence faced by people experiencing homelessness each year. The following report documents 105 hate crimes and violent acts that occurred in 2004, collected from newspapers and reports across the country. The narratives bring to light the discrimination and senseless violence faced daily by so many of our country’s homeless citizens.

A sampling of the headlines in the case narrative section of this annual report says it all:

·  Couple Beats Homeless Man, Leaves Him to Die in the Snow (Maple Valley, WA, January)

·  Homeless Man Seeking Refuge from Cold Beaten to Death (New York, NY, January)

·  Two Teens Beat a Homeless Man in His Sleep (Key West, FL, March)

·  Teen Hits, Kicks, and Stomps Homeless Man to Death (Bend, OR, April)

·  Man Set on Fire, Found Two Days Later (Lompoc, CA, May)

·  Two Teens Viciously Beat Homeless Man to Death Outside Church (New York, NY June)

·  Homeless Man Beaten to Death by Teens Claiming “Boredom” (Oakland, CA, July)

·  Wheelchair-bound Homeless Man Stabbed to Death (Denver, CO, August)

·  Teens Kill Homeless Man Over $5 Dispute (Gettysburg, PA, September)

·  Teens Beat Homeless Man, Then Torch His Belongings (Albany, NY, October)

·  Homeless Woman Suffocated (Keizer, OR, October)


PURPOSE STATEMENT

The main objective of this report is to educate lawmakers, advocates, and the general public about the problem of hate crimes and violence against homeless people in order to instigate change and ensure protection of civil rights for everyone, regardless of their economic circumstances or housing status.  As part of its mission, the National Coalition for the Homeless is committed to creating the systemic and attitudinal changes necessary to end homelessness. A major component of these changes must include the societal guarantee of safety and protection and a commitment by lawmakers to combat the hate crimes and violent acts against people who experience homelessness.

THE REPORTS

Over the past six years (1999-2004), advocates and homeless shelter workers from around the country have seen an alarming increase in reports of homeless men, women and even children being killed, beaten, and harassed. In response to these concerns, The National Coalition For the Homeless has produced six reports documenting these acts.

1999:   No More Homeless Deaths! Hate Crimes: A Report Documenting Violence Against Men and Women Homeless in the U.S.  

2000:   A Report of Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Who Are Homeless in the United States in 2000.

2001:   Hate. A Compilation of Violent Crimes Committed Against Homeless People in the U.S. in 2001

2002:   Hate, Violence, and Death on Main Street USA: A Report on Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness in 1999-2002

2003:   Hate, Violence, and Death on Main Street USA: A Report on Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness in 2003

The most recent report, Hate, Violence, and Death on Main Street USA: A Report on Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness in 2004, continues to maintain the same goals and objectives as these previous reports:

1.     To compile the incidents of hate crimes and violence that NCH has received and reviewed in order to document this alarming trend against people who are homeless.

2.     To make lawmakers and the public aware of this serious issue.

3.     To recommend proactive measures to be taken.

HATE CRIMES

The term “hate crime” generally conjures up images of cross burnings and lynchings, swastikas on Jewish synagogues, and horrific murders of gays and lesbians.  In 1968, the U.S. Congress defined a hate crime, under federal law, as a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of their race, color or national origin (Title 18 U.S.C Section 245).  The law mandated that the government must prove both that the crime occurred because of a victim’s membership in a designated group and because the victim was engaged in certain specified federally-protected activities — such as serving on a jury, voting, or attending public school. [1]

Hate crimes are commonly called bias-motivated crimes, referring to the prejudice or partiality of the perpetrator against the victim’s real or perceived grouping or circumstance.   Most hate crimes are committed not by organized hate groups, but by individual citizens who harbor a strong resentment against a certain group of people. 

Some are “mission offenders,” who believe they are on a mission “to cleanse the world of a particular evil”. [2] Others are “scapegoat offenders,” who project their resentment toward the growing economic power of a particular racial or ethnic group through violent actions.  Still others are “thrill seekers” — those who take advantage of a vulnerable and disadvantaged group in order to satisfy their own pleasures. [3]   Thrill seekers, primarily in their teens, are the most common perpetrators of violence against homeless people.

In documenting hate crimes and violence against homeless people, and the data and documentation used for this report, NCH relies on news reports and information relayed to us by homeless shelters around the country. Although NCH acts as the nationwide repository of hate crimes/violence against homeless people, there is no systematic method of collecting and documenting such reports.  Many of these violent acts go unpublicized and/or unreported, thereby making it difficult to assess the true magnitude of the problem. 

Often, homeless people do not report crimes committed against them because of mental health issues, substance abuse, fear of retaliation, past incidents, or frustration with the police. Some cases this year were also omitted because the victims were found beaten to death, but no suspects could be identified.  In addition, the report does not take into account the large number of sexual assaults, especially against homeless women.

LEGISLATION

Subsequently, federal bias crime laws enacted have provided additional coverage.  The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 (HCSA) mandates the Justice Department to collect data from law enforcement agencies about “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based upon race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” [4] The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act, enacted as a section of the Violent Crime  Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, defines a hate crime as “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.”  This measure only applies to, inter alia, attacks and vandalism that occur in national parks and on federal property. [5] The most recent piece of legislation, Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2005 was introduced in the U.S. House (H.R.2662), and (S.1145) in the U.S. Senate in the 109th Congress.  This legislation “authorizes the Attorney General to provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that:  (1) constitutes a crime of violence under Federal law or a felony under State or Indian tribal law; and (2) is motivated by prejudice based on the race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability of the victim or is a violation of the hate crimes laws of the State or tribe.”  There is currently no federal criminal prohibition against violent crimes directed at individuals because of their housing status.

 

The National Coalition for the Homeless aims to include housing status in the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2005 (H.R. 2662 and S. 1445) and in future pieces of legislation. H.R. 2662 and S. 1445 have broad bipartisan support, but through the inclusion of housing status, hate crimes and violent acts toward people experiencing homelessness will be more appropriately handled and prosecuted.  Additionally, if victims know that a system is in place to prosecute such crimes, they are more likely to come forward to report these crimes.  People who are forced to live and sleep on the streets for lack of an appropriate alternative are in an extremely vulnerable situation, and it is unacceptable that hate crime prevention laws do not protect them.

Also noteworthy is the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2005 (H.R. 259), which has been introduced into the 109th Congress by Ms. Jackson-Lee of Texas and has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. This bill is an abridged and slightly altered version of H.R. 2662 and S.1145.

 

[1] Source: Anti-Defamation League, http://www.adl.org/legislative_action/hatecrimes_briefing.html

[2] Source: “Responding to Hate Crime” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Victims of Crime, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc

[3] Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, www.ojp.usdoj.gov

[4]   Source: Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, www.civilrights.org

[5] Source: Anti-Defamation League, http://adl.org/legislative_action/hatecrimes_briefing.html

   Source: www.Thomas.loc.gov