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Criminal Activity Among the Homeless: A Study of Arrest in Baltimore

NCJ Number
Hospital and Community Psychiatry Volume: 39 Issue: 1 Dated: (January 1988) Pages: 46-51
P J Fischer
Date Published
6 pages
To illuminate the role of criminal activity among the homeless, particularly the homeless mentally ill, this study compares 634 arrests of homeless persons with 50,524 arrests in the general population in Baltimore in 1983.
The analysis focuses on the age and sex of arrestees, the time and location of arrests, and the kinds of offenses prompting the arrests. Results are supplemented by a comparison of the demographic characteristics of the homeless arrestees with those of two other Baltimore City populations and by arresting officers' narrative reports describing arrests of homeless persons. These findings are used to infer characteristics of the homeless population from which the arrestees were drawn and to support suggestions concerning the role of criminal activity in the behavior of homeless people. Significant differences are found in the demographic characteristics of the two groups of arrestees and in the types of offenses prompting the arrests. Among the homeless, arrestees are more likely to be male, white, and over age 45 and to have committed trivial, victimless crimes. Serious offenses such as assault, larceny, and burglary charged to homeless persons tended to involve petty thievery, entry into vacant buildings, and other acts related to surviving in the absence of housing. 3 tables, 40 references. (Author abstract modified)


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