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The Homeless and the Crimes They Commit

Homeless Crimes
Homeless Crime Rates

Homeless people commit crimes, but do they really represent a major violent crime issue? That dirty homeless man outside the building where you work may look scary but is he really a danger to you physically? Homeless people are committing more crimes but the stats say that in most cases these are not violent crimes and most likely related to drugs, alcohol or vagrancy and of course just being homeless.

The Media and Homeless Crimes

Lately the media has been pushing crimes by the homeless such as the death of Michelle Alyssa Go who was pushed to her death in the NYC subway or the case of Brianna Kupfer who was murdered while working in an furniture store in Los Angeles. These crimes were amplified by social media posts causing the illusion that homeless are becoming more violent but not all studies show this to be the case.

NYC Homeless Case Study

The NYC homeless study published on the National Library of Medicine is used by many to say that the homeless are more like to committee crimes but using this study alone is taking a bias approach to the issue.

The study did found that “The overall rate of criminal offenses was 35 times higher in the homeless mentally ill population than in the domiciled mentally ill population. The rate of violent crimes was 40 times higher and the rate of nonviolent crimes 27 times higher in the homeless population.” but this was only for the mentally ill not against the normal every day New Yorker.

First of all the study was only conducted in New York City, anyone who researches crimes will tell you that the crimes in one city doesn’t match to the crimes in others. To use only the data from one city you are only getting the snap shot of what is happening there. A good example how this approach is flawed is published in another article, also published at the National Library of Medicine, which indicates “According to one study, 12 percent of adult psychiatric patients receiving treatment in the San Diego County health system had prior incarcerations, while 28 percent of Connecticut residents treated for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder had been arrested or detained.”

The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance has indicated their studies have shown “While a larger number of people experiencing homelessness have substance abuse disorders than the general population, a person who is homeless is no more likely to be a criminal than a housed person, with one legal exception: camping ordinances. But of course people who are homeless break that law merely by being homeless. A person who is homeless is less likely to perpetuate a violent crime than a housed person, and is in fact more likely to be the victim of a violent crime, especially if they are a homeless woman, teen, or child.”

Houston Homeless

Houston Homeless Crimes
Houston Homeless Rates

Houston is one of the few big cities to actually make a difference in the homeless population with a 10 year decrease of 61% in the number of homeless. If one is to believe that homelessness drives violent crimes then one would only assume that the violent crimes went down in Houston at the same time but this is not the case. Murders went up 42% and the aggravated assaults’ 31% in 2020 in Houston with no increase in the homeless population.

Another good example is Eugene, Oregon which tops the list in homeless by population but doesn’t have the violent crime rate to match it. On the other side Chicago who has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country but doesn’t show up in the top 10 in homelessness.

Homeless Encampments

Homelessness Encampments Crime
Homelessness Encampments Crimes

Homeless encampments are ugly, an eye sore, and generally are filled with waste and diseases, but do they cause an increase in crime?

Alexis Piquero a sociologist at the University of Miami has done extensive research on the mater and has determined “It’s very difficult to say that the encampments themselves are what’s creating the crime. What that means is that the area around those encampments is already criminogenic — it has the ingredients, if you will,”

Why Homelessness and Crime Matter

The goal of any police force is to protect and serve, part of that pledge is to decrease crime as much as possible. If police forces are concentrating on threats that are not as prevalent as others, mainly because of a media bias, then they aren’t acting in the best interest of those they are serving.

We also need to understand the homeless and what crimes they are committing to better handle their situations.

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