Murder and mayhem among LA’s homeless

Acts of violence committed by unhoused individuals against other members of the public almost always make the headlines. But what often goes ignored is the scourge of violence within homeless communities. In fact, homicides among LA’s homeless have increased alongside a larger rise in homicides countywide. And unhoused individuals appear more vulnerable than ever before.

Three people from an encampment along Del Amo Boulevard in Compton were murdered over the past year. County prosecutors have accused a single transient, Tracy Walker, of the crimes.

Earlier this month, a 59-year-old woman was fatally stabbed in the head with a kitchen knife while sleeping on a sidewalk in South Central Los Angeles. She was one of 651 homeless victims of violent crime perpetrated in the city as of April 2021, compared with 637 in the same time period last year. And those are just the official stats. Many crimes within these communities go unreported.

On May 28, three people were also arrested in connection with the attempted murder of a homeless man on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Police believe that case to be gang-related.

Shocking video from ABC 7 shows broad-daylight fist fights and other brutal assaults at a Venice homeless encampment near the city’s Bridge Home facility. It was in this part of town that an unhoused woman allegedly pulled out of a knife just feet from LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino and threatened to "start killing people" on Monday.

Then there are the fires. Blazes routinely rip through West LA homeless encampments, sometimes claiming lives. Most of them are accidental. But some are deliberately set as retribution or to settle disputes between unhoused neighbors. Some are acts of hate against the homeless. One-third of all fires related to homelessness in the past 31/4 years were caused by arson.

Proposals to reduce violence within and against these communities include a crackdown on gang activity and community policing programs. But the most obvious answer is also the hardest to accomplish — getting 66,436 unhoused people off LA’s streets.