For the homeless, violence is a fact of life on the streets of Denver, the Denver Post reports. It comes in many forms, from other homeless people, to crooks looking to rob an easy target, to teenagers out for thrills. Already in 2004, police are investigating the killings of eight homeless men; they have solved three of those cases. A ninth man, just a step away from being defined as homeless, also has been killed. This year marks the fifth anniversary of a series of homeless killings that shocked the city and sent fear through the area’s side streets and back alleys. In a three-month span from September to November 1999, seven homeless men were killed around downtown. The 1999 murders were shocking in their brutality. Several victims were beaten to death; two were decapitated. The murders stopped once a group of so-called “mall rats,” homeless teenagers who hung out near a mall, were arrested.
Police believe a killer – or killers – may still be out there. Only one of the 1999 cases has been officially solved. A recent federal grant to investigate cold cases should allow police to review them yet again, said Denver police Division Chief Dave Fisher. He said solving cases of violence against the homeless is particularly difficult. Often the witnesses or even the victim – if he or she survives – are uncooperative. Crime scenes are difficult to find. substance abuse often clouds the picture. “That is a violent lifestyle,” he said. “Any time a lot of alcohol and drugs are involved, there’s going to be violence.”