Homelessness, crime, and the police: Crime and order maintenance on the street
AuthorQuist, Theron Macay, 1960-
KeywordsSociology, Criminology and Penology.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe intent of this dissertation is to examine crime among the homeless, focusing on social context. Most research on homelessness and crime focuses on differences between rates of crime among the homeless and the domiciled. Researchers pay less attention to aspects of homeless life increasing probabilities of crime commission or police contact. The first issue examined was whether need is the primary motivator for crimes of the homeless. Given that most homeless people lack resources and yet only a minority commit crime, the key question became, "Why do some commit crime while others do not?" Information regarding a wide range of "survival" behaviors was collected by administering structured interviews to 399 homeless people in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Tucson. With these data, the relations among a variety of aspects of homeless life were examined. While alternative survival behaviors were predicted by barriers to regular work, crime was not predicted, casting serious doubt on need as the major motivator for crime in this population. This finding raised the second issue of the dissertation, "Do accepted theories of crime predict homeless crime?". Two of the theories examined (social learning and self-control theory) predicted crime in this population. Several factors are significant across the range of crimes discussed: cocaine and alcohol use, work history, staying in shelters, deviant acquaintances, non-conventional beliefs, and drug (or alcohol) abuse in the family. The third issue is the way in which the routine activities of the homeless interact with policing practices. The most significant change in patterns of homelessness is the decrease in accommodations for the extremely poor, and the related decline of space available to the homeless. The major consequence of this change is that the homeless are dislodged from areas traditionally available for use. This, combined with increases in the homeless population, compels the homeless to spend more time in prime space, or space valued by the community. This is significant, because as the numbers of homeless in prime space increases, their daily routines are more likely to bring them into contact with the police.
Degree ProgramGraduate College