Council member proposes that crimes against homeless be consider - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Council member proposes that crimes against homeless be considered hate crimes

PHOTO: @ToEndhomeless PHOTO: @ToEndhomeless
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Crimes intended against the homeless could soon be classified as hate crimes.

Council member Chris Seelbach announced his proposal for the crime classification alongside the Strategies to End Homelessness group and the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition Thursday. 

The goal of the proposal is to protect the lives of local homeless men and women who he says are among the most vulnerable in the city. 

"If police determine that there is evidence that a crime was committed just based on the person's homeless status or perceived homeless status than a judge may, if she chooses, add 180 days to that person's sentence," Seelbach said. 

In August, FOX19 NOW spoke to Executive Director of the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition Josh Spring about crime against the homeless. He said it is an alarming trend. 

"In the past 15 years, the number of homeless hate crimes resulting in death far outweighs the number of hate crimes against people for religion, race, sexual orientation and ethnicity that resulted in death," Spring said.

But FOX19's Legal Analyst, Mike Allen, says classifying these crimes as hate crimes may be easier said than done.

"If homelessness is one of the classes that is protected in a hate crime you're going to have to define homeless," said Allen. "The legislature is going to have to craft a definition for that. I think that's going to be difficult."

Seelbach is also proposing that $45,000 be added to the city's winter shelter program, a seasonal emergency shelter that provides a temporary haven for homeless people during the harsh winter months. 

He says he's been given verbal assurance by the majority of council members that both initiatives will pass. 

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