Homeless people in New York City and Washington DC have been told to seek shelter from a suspected serial killer who has been targeting people in both cities.
Mayors Eric Adams and Muriel Bowser told residents without a fixed address to find shelter on Sunday from a suspect who has allegedly killed two homeless people this month.
“As our law enforcement agencies work quickly with federal partners to locate the suspect, we are also calling on unsheltered residents to seek shelter,” the mayors said in a joint statement.
“Again, it is heartbreaking and tragic to know that in addition to all the dangers that unsheltered residents face, we now have a cold-blooded killer on the loose.”
Both the NYPD and DC police department believe that five shootings in both cities are connected and that the similarities between the attacks as well as recovered evidence led them to believe the attacks are related.
“There will be no resource spared to locate and arrest the individual/s responsible for these incomprehensible acts of violence committed against our community members,” said Charlie J Patterson of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF).
“ATF will utilize our expertise as we continue coordinating and combining efforts with our local, state and federal partners to ensure public safety is restored. Our condolences go out to the family members of those affected by this blatant disregard of human life.”
The spree of connected shootings began when two homeless men were shot in Washington DC on 3 and 8 March, and again on 9 March which was ruled a homicide, police said.
The New York Police Department said it responded to the shooting of two homeless men in SoHo, one of whom was killed, on Saturday.
A potential sixth victim was then shot while a vigil was held for the earlier victims, according to New York Timesalthough that awaits confirmation.
A reward of up to $10,000 (£7,669) has been made available from the NYPD for information that could lead to the arrest of the suspected shooter, who has not been identified and remains on the run.
“Our communities in DC and New York City our heartbroken and disturbed by these heinous crimes in which an individual has been targeting some of our most vulnerable residents,” the mayors added in their joint statement. “The work to get this individual off our streets before he hurts or murders another individual is urgent.”
Homeless charities have spoken out against Mr Adams for allegedly endangering homeless people with his “zero tolerance” approach towards sleeping on the the New York City subway system, which was introduced only last month with the help of police enforcement.
In a statement, the Coalition for the Homeless said two shootings in New York City on Saturday were “an urgent reminder that many unsheltered New Yorkers choose to bed down in the subways because that is where they feel the most safe in the absence of housing and low-barrier shelters”.
It also called on Mr Adams to open 500 beds promised by his office last month, “instead of subway sweeps” of the roughly 1,000 people believed to sleep in the subway.
Member NYanother non-profit, added on Sunday that “the answer is permanent, safe, humane housing and care” and that the shooting spree was “the direct result of a growing reckless and hateful anti-homeless culture that has been allowed to exist by politicians and the media”.
Mr Adams, who called for an end to homeless sleeping on the subway following a rise in crimes on the transport system in 2021, admitted last month that “the vast majority of the unhoused and the mentally ill are not dangerous” to subway riders.
Ace The Times reported, his “zero tolerance” homelessness policy still sought to remove them from the transport system however. The Independent has approached Mr Adams’ office for comment.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.