SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Several states are reporting an alarming rise in crimes against the homeless. While Massachusetts isn’t one of them, the 22News I-Team discovered the homeless here are feeling targeted.
A man in Springfield, who didn’t want to be identified, says he was targeted and attacked because he’s homeless. “They said things like yeah he’s one, he’s from the shelter and this last time they said we got you now,” he said.
He says four or five teenagers recently surrounded him, and beat him near the Worthington Street homeless shelter in Springfield. “It was like multiple weapons from a baseball bat to lead pipes and I just tried to fight for my life basically,” he added.
Shelter executive director Bill Miller told the I-Team these incidents are happening more frequently. In just the last few months there’ve been at least six other similar attacks.
Medical staff treating victims’ wounds notified Miller. “They started seeing what they felt was a pattern,” Miller said.
Targeting the homeless is unfortunately nothing new. Seven states now classify assaults against homeless as hate crimes that come with strict punishments. Massachusetts, however, isn’t one of them.
Last month, the Huffington Post reported a 23% increase in targeted homeless attacks last year. They found there were 108 reported assaults against the homeless, 19 resulted in death. The year before there were 88 reported attacks, 18 resulted in death.
Miller said if nothing’s done, the numbers will only continue to rise and eventually end in tragedy here. “It is something that goes back quite a few years, people have seen that flare up at different times so we don’t want to see it get to that level here,” Miller said.
The man we talked to says he thinks it’s the same group of people targeting the shelter residents. He said he’s fearful just walking the streets. “Where’s a cop when you need one?”
The Springfield Police headquarters is in that neighborhood. The I-Team asked police if this is something they’re watching. They said it isn’t and is likely because not all attacks are reported to them so they’re not aware of a pattern.
Miller says he’s encouraging his residents to report all attacks.