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A trend of violence

May 18 2009
'Bumfights' feature homeless people fighting in exchange for money, alcohol and other ?î???incentives?î???. 'Bumfights' feature homeless people fighting in exchange for money, alcohol and other ?î???incentives?î???.
A worrying spate of attacks in the US may foretell a future UK trend Attacks on homeless people by thrill-seeking teenagers are increasing sharply in cities and suburbs throughout the US, experts have warned. Last year, 142 attacks on homeless men and women were reported, up 65 per cent from the 86 logged in 2005, and a high number of other attacks is believed to go unreported, a study from the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) claimed. Criminologists call these wild, violent sprees "sport killing". They are generally perpetrated by middle-class teenagers with no criminal records, who assault the homeless with bats, golf clubs and paintball guns. According to the experts, there are common themes within this wave of teen-on-homeless violence. The assailants often capture the attack on cameraphone to show their friends, and the videos often make their way to YouTube video streams soon afterwards. Some of the perpetrators claim to have been inspired by Bumfights, an American independent video series created in 2002 and sold on the web, which features homeless people fighting against each other in exchange for money, alcohol and other 'incentives'. The NCH argues that the videos disseminate hate against rough sleepers and dehumanise the people who take part. Many of the teenagers' attacks on the homeless go far beyond throwing eggs from nice cars, the NCH report said. Among the many assaults, serious incidents have included an attack in February on a randomly-chosen homeless man by two white teenagers and a 22-year-old white man, who videotaped their premeditated attack. One month later, two homeless Army veterans were beaten and kicked by two 10-year-olds and one 17-year-old in Florida. Most recently, two homeless men were severely beaten and stabbed, suffering numerous wounds to their heads, faces and bodies, police reported. This incident occurred inside an abandoned house in early July. The victims claim that six to eight young men aged 16-22 threw bricks and other items through the windows of the structure in an apparent effort to drive them out of the house. Investigators believe these men were targeted because they were homeless and therefore perceived as easy targets. In the same period, four teenage boys were arrested in Los Angeles during an investigation into a series of attacks on homeless people recorded on mobile phone cameras, with the intent to make the videos public domain on the internet. The teens confirmed experts' fears: the boys had watched, and were influenced by, Bumfights. More recently, the "sport killing" has spread to the UK as well. In August, teenagers trapped a homeless man in a car window and drove off, having promised him £5. The attack took place not in the US, but in Torquay, Devon. Footage of Glenn Skinner, 36, showed him looking terrified as he was dragged along the road, and his ordeal ended only when the driver spotted a police car nearby. The short film appeared on the YouTube website and received thousands of hits, but was later removed. Inspector Mel Broad, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "A criminal offence has been committed if a passenger is carried in a dangerous manner. This would be classed as dangerous driving." UK police are also hunting a man who attacked a homeless man who was hit by a glass bottle and received a serious head injury as he slept in his tent. The assault happened near St George's Bridge, Doncaster, around 10.15pm on Tuesday, 28th August. Two men have been arrested in connection with the incident, but officers are seeking a third man, who might be in his early 20s and may be called John or Jonno. He is of a lean build, with short, light brown hair and a distinctive swallow tattoo on the left-hand side of his neck. Anyone with information on the Doncaster attack is urged to call PC Adam Frost on 01302 385211 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.