These sorts of things happen pretty often in major cities on the west coast. They get reported locally but there’s no interest from the national media in stringing these things together into an obvious pattern of drug-addicted, mentally deranged homeless people who represent a danger to those around them.

In this case, police have released video of the suspect but they don’t know his name or his story yet, so it’s not completely certain whether he’s homeless or just mentally troubled or on drugs. The video shows a mom walking with a young child, maybe five or six years old. An older man, who appears to be shuffling a bit, walks past and takes a swing in the air. When he misses, he doubles back and pursues the woman. She hears him coming and tries to duck away but still gets hit in the head. Fortunately, she wasn’t seriously hurt and the attack ended after one strike. The whole thing appears to be completely random.

It happened just steps from the touristy Powell Street Cable Car line. But merchants say this area just two blocks from Union Square is has seen an increase in assaults and shoplifting.

“They get some t-shirts or sweatshirts and they run away. We don’t have time to catch them,” said Vicente Alfaro, who works in an area camera shop…

David Thomas, who works the area as a security guard, told KPIX 5 it appears that the suspect was having some mental problems, which may have caused him to lash out at the woman.

“Of course I would try to help the lady. But there’s a lot of people like that, who walk around like ghosts, not a care to the world,” said Thomas.

“But the bigger issue is the homeless situation and the mental illness that comes with the homeless. We need to come up with a proper solution for that,” [Dondi] Jones said.

The guy actually appears fairly well dressed. You don’t see a lot of homeless people in button-down shirts. So maybe he’s not homeless in this case but, clearly, he has some serious problems.

Last week I wrote about a homeless man in Seattle who raped a 17-year-old girl in her own home after the girl’s parents decided to let him move in with them until he could “get on his feet.” Again, that story made the local news but most people outside Washington probably never heard about it just as most people outside California will never hear about this attack on a mom with a small child. The result is that these random attacks by deranged people on the street appear to be infrequent and unconnected. In fact, they are often connected by drug abuse, mental illness, homelessness, or some combination of the three.