Killing the homeless for sport is an increasing problem, according to CNN.com, which cited a study by National Coalition for the Homeless reporting that the most attacks on record in a decade occurred in 2006. According to the report, 122 attacks and 20 murders occurred.
In most cases, teenagers attack the homeless with objects like paintball guns, baseball bats and rocks, a crime now being referred to as “sport killing,” CNN reported.
Looking back, attackers appear bemused by their actions, telling reporters they didn’t mean to kill the victim. In an interview with CNN, attacker Nathan Moore, who participated in killing a 49-year-old homeless man, told the reporter the crime reminded him of a violent video game.
While some may point accusing fingers and blame violent media for these crimes, they should question what prevents a 15-year-old from distinguishing between fiction and real life.
Some sport killings may be pre-meditated, which is greater cause for concern. The Corpus Christi Caller Times reported in February that attackers filmed themselves beating a homeless man, going so far as to turn him around to face the camera to display his injuries. While this is an isolated case, this disturbing act clearly shows the attackers felt their crime was worth documenting (and getting caught could not have been too concerning).
Mark Hewitt, director of Love and Care Ministries in Abilene, said he hasn’t noticed an increasing trend of violence in Abilene; however, he said violent crimes have occurred, mostly when kids are “goofing off” or when homeless people attack one another.
“I think a lot of people think homeless people are nothing. They’re feeble; they’re not all there. I think [people] take that opportunity to take what they have or beat them,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt estimated the homeless population in Abilene is about 300-400 people, and said many Abilenians are unaware the number is so high.
Abilene’s homeless are protected to a degree because Love and Care visits their camps to offer food, clothing and medical supplies, Hewitt said, which may be one reason for fewer crimes against them.
Andrew Stevens, Love and Care intern, said he’s noticed many Abilenians avoid the homeless, when getting involved with them could bring some understanding.
This is where the problem lies – we have dehumanized our homeless, which in turn makes committing violent acts against them seem trivial. When did it become acceptable to act out gruesome scenes reminiscent of Lord of the Flies?
Perhaps society has an unspoken attitude toward the homeless that is passed on to children, who retain this attitude into their teenage and adult years. Because this violent trend is only against the homeless, there must be an attitude toward them that sets them apart. The solution is obvious – attitudes need to change.
Realistically, one cannot expect every member of society to spill into the streets to learn more about the homeless. But it is reasonable to expect people to make a little effort to understand – not to judge – and to remember that whether sitting on a street corner with a sign or sipping Starbucks on a college campus, we’re all the same. Maybe then someone will stand up and offer a voice for the voiceless.