A nationwide surge in violence against homeless people has at least six states considering stiffer punishments by adding attacks on the homeless to state hate crime laws, reports Stateline.org. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that 142 homeless persons were violently attacked in 2006, compared to 86 in 2005. Florida led all states with 48 such attacks in 2006. Many of the attackers were teens who say they acted for “thrill” or “fun.”
Last year, Maine became the first state to beef up punishments for violence against homeless people but stopped short of making such attacks a separate hate crime. In 2005, California began requiring law enforcers to receive special training in ways to effectively and humanely protect the homeless. This year California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and Texas are considering bills to add the homeless to groups covered by hate-crime laws.