Attacks on homeless…a hate crime

Back in May, we shared with you exciting news that Governor Charlie Crist signed a bill that added attacks against the homeless to Florida’s hate crime laws. Well, the time has come for the law to take effect. Starting tomorrow, October 1, those convicted of committing a crime against an individual because they are homeless will face harsher penalties.

Many may remember when, in 2008, a group of four men brutally beat a Pompano Beach homeless man and then posted the assault on YouTube. The man was hurt, but not enough to file aggravated battery charges. His abusers pled no contest to a misdemeanor and received nothing more than probation or a year in jail. This new addition to the law will be most beneficial in cases like this one. The suspects in this incident could have faced a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in jail.

The most common question people have when looking at cases like this is, “why?” Why do people feel the need to overpower and abuse the homeless as if they don’t matter? Neil Donovan, Executive Director of National Coalition for the Homeless (not affiliated with us), said in a Palm Beach Post news article that the economy may play a factor. People are feeling the toll of the poor economy and resort to taking out their frustrations on those below them on the financial ladder.

Another possible contributor is the “glamorization” in the media. There are countless online videos such as “Bum Fights,” “Bum Hunting,” and even a video game called “bumrise.com.” Such videos only promote these unthinkable acts.

We wish more than ever that potential perpetrators would realize attacking the homeless is not a game or an appropriate avenue to vent frustrations. If all else fails, we hope that increasing the penalties will prevent future attacks on our homeless citizens.

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