Crimes against homeless people increased 24% in 2019 while overall crime decreased, crime data shows

ByGrace Manthey
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Crimes against homeless people increased 24% in 2019 while overall crime decreased, crime data shows
An ABC7 analysis of LAPD data shows crimes against the homeless people increased 24% in 2019, while crime overall decreased 6%.

LOS ANGELES -- An ABC7 analysis found a 6% decrease in crime overall in Los Angeles for 2019 and a 2% decrease in homicides as compared to 2018. While that's positive news for most, that same research showed a segment of our population who feels under attack: the homeless.

And they believe it's getting worse.

One homeless man, Carlos Guerrero, called the streets "the devil's playground." Another, Noah Goudeau, said "people are ruthless out here."

According to an ABC7 analysis of Los Angeles Police Department data, crimes against homeless people increased 24% in 2019. There was a 19% increase in serious violent crime against homeless people and a 5% increase in homeless people killed.

Of all homicides in Los Angeles in 2019, 16% of the victims were homeless.

The majority of suspects involved in homicides against homeless where also homeless, but a little over half of the suspects involved in aggravated assaults with a deadly weapon against homeless victims were not listed as homeless.

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: Click below to explore the homeless crime numbers. Click between the buttons on the top right to switch between overall crime numbers and part 1 crimes only, which are more serious and include homicide, rape and arson.

Note: Part 1 crimes include: homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny-theft and arson. Part 2 crimes include: simple assaults, forgery/counterfeiting, embezzlement/fraud, receiving stolen property, weapon violations, prostitution, sex crimes, crimes against family/child, narcotic drug laws, liquor laws, drunkenness, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, gambling, DUIs and moving traffic violations.
Source: LAPD crime data, updated Jan. 8, 2020

The Eagle Rock fire in August 2019 is one example where authorities believe two men specifically targeted a homeless encampment, setting it on fire.

"People just come out of nowhere and just start with us," said Guerrero. "Like, 'Oh get a job,' and throw things at us."

Kitty Davis-Walker has worked at the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles for 14 years and sees the increase in violence as somewhat predictable. She said if more isn't done to get people off the streets into proper treatment with individual case management, the trend is likely to continue.

"If we don't get them housed, mental illness is going to continue to run rampant because that does something to the psyche," Davis-Walker said.

"Stop the bleeding first and then begin to do other things like case management, getting folks what they need. If we don't do that, we're going to continue and the uptick in violence is going to continue," she said.

One part of the equation that makes crimes against homeless people difficult to measure is simply having the victim report the crime. In many cases, the homeless victim refuses to report the crime at all. With no report, statistically, the crime never happened.