Attacks against homeless people increased from 142 in 2006 to 160 in 2007, says an unofficial count by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, reports USA Today. The rise has more states considering harsher penalties in hate crime laws for attacking a homeless person. In Alaska, a bill awaits Gov. Sarah Palin’s signature. Legislation is proposed in Ohio and Massachusetts.
Twenty-eight of last year’s attacks were murders, up from 20 murders in 2006. The report was based on media reports and other data collected by advocates for the homeless. Maine is the only state that has passed tougher penalties, allowing judges to consider the victim’s status as a homeless person as a reason to impose longer sentences. California mandates specific training for police officers on dealing with crimes against the homeless. Attacking the homeless “has become a new sport, almost a rite of passage,” says Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless.