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Policing Our Way Out of Homelessness?: The First Year of the Safer Cities Initiative on Skid Row

NCJ Number
Gary Blasi
Date Published
September 2007
53 pages
This report from the UCLA School of Law summarizes the results of the Safer Cities Initiative established on Los Angeles' Skid Row in September 2006.
Findings from this evaluation include: Los Angeles has the largest homeless population of any city in the United States, yet has the fewest homeless people in shelters (21 percent) compared to San Francisco (57 percent) and Philadelphia, Denver, or New York City (90 percent); a majority of the homeless people on Los Angeles' Skid Row have severe and chronic mental disabilities, addiction disease, and co-occurring disorders; and almost half of the shelter and housing program beds for homeless people are located in Skid Row. Findings from the evaluation regarding the Safer Cities Initiative (SCI) include: SCI was officially launched by the city in September 2006 to provide additional police resources to fight crime and reduce the homeless population in Los Angeles; on average, 750 arrests are made each month as a result of SCI, with more than half for drug offenses; since the inception of SCI, crime in the city in general, and in Skid Row in particular, has declined; and a majority of those arrested under the SCI are unable to pay the fines and thus end up on prison and become ineligible for participation in drug treatment programs. This report from the UCLA School of Law summarizes the results of the SCI established on Los Angeles' Skid Row in 2006. Data for the report were obtained from about 15,000 pages of public records and the analysis of multiple computer databases provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Office of the City Attorney, and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, as well as interviews with professionals with specific knowledge of the problem of homelessness. The results of the evaluation indicate that while the SCI has contributed to reductions in crime, there is no indication that it is able to reduce the problem of chronic homelessness. 14 tables