Published: Sep 28, 2010 3:39 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 28, 2010 12:39 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Prejudice-motivated attacks against homeless people are becoming hate crimes in Florida, a state that has led the nation in that statistic four of the last five years.

The new law goes into effect Friday.

Florida is the largest of five states and the District of Columbia that have increased penalties for attacks against the homeless, but the National Coalition for the Homeless says it's unsure such laws will do any good.

The coalition first wants the federal government to begin collecting data to help determine what will work.

A U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee is scheduled to hear testimony on that issue Wednesday.

Other advocates, though, say publicity surrounding hate crime laws can be a deterrent itself.