Spurred to action by several serious or deadly attacks on transients this year, the Los Angeles City Council this week unanimously approved a resolution supporting any legislation that would add homeless people to the list of those protected by the state’s hate crime law.
A homeless man and woman were attacked with battery acid while they slept in a Mission Hills park in October, and a man was arrested the previous month as the prime suspect in a series of beatings of primarily homeless people in Los Angeles and Santa Monica that left four dead and four others seriously injured.
The California Penal Code defines a hate crime as a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of the perceived characteristics of the victim, according to the resolution, which was introduced by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez.
“The current definition of hate crime does not include housing status, even though attacks against those experiencing homelessness are a persistent problem,” the resolution states.
A 2015 report from the National Coalition for the Homeless found that California led the nation in attacks targeting people experiencing homelessness, a report from the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst noted.
The NCH report said the number of attacks against persons experiencing homelessness nationwide has increased over the years, even though crimes against the homeless are reported at lower rates than other crimes. It also said that since 1999, the number of fatal attacks on the homeless exceeds the combined number of deaths in hate crimes that targeted specific races, religions and sexual orientations.
Other states, including Maryland, Florida and Alaska, have broadened their hate crime definitions to include protections based on housing status, according to the CLA report, which noted that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill in 2010 that would have added hate crime protections for homeless people.