Police arrested homeless people on property, drug or low-level crimes, and many arrests were for for missing court or violating probation or parole.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — One in every two arrests made by the Portland Police Bureau last year was of a homeless person, a recent analysis found.
Homeless people accounted for 52 percent of arrests in 2017, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported .
A federal survey last year found 4,177 people living outside, in shelters or transitional housing in Multnomah County.
The newspaper’s analysis found that 4,437 homeless people — 260 more than the survey counted — were arrested by Portland police last year.
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The analysis found that 84 percent of the arrests were for non-violent crimes, and more than 1,200 arrests were solely for offenses that are typically procedural — missing court or violating probation or parole.
In the first three months of 2018, the disparity continued to grow. The percentage of arrests of homeless people outpaced last year’s.
Police Chief Danielle Outlaw and Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as police commissioner, have both said being homeless is not a crime.
Wheeler declined repeated interview requests for The Oregonian/OregonLive’s story. His chief of staff, Michael Cox, would not say whether the newspaper’s findings were concerning or surprising.
“From the mayor’s perspective, the question really is how can we help folks who are vulnerable before they — before it comes down to criminal activity,” Cox said.
He said the arrests of homeless people are “a sign that we, as a society, have already dropped the ball, perhaps a couple times, before that police interaction.”
Eighty percent of the homeless people arrested last year had been arrested at least once in the past two decades.
Presented with the newspaper’s analysis, Portland Police Deputy Chief Bob Day said he could not think of a police or city policy that would contribute to the arrest disparity.
“I don’t see a criminalizing of that population,” Day said. “But there is an increased amount of exposure and interaction with the police.”
Advocates say arresting so many homeless people only adds to the city’s homeless crisis, making it harder for people with long criminal histories to find housing.
“It’s not a response that achieves anything,” Tristia Bauman said, a senior attorney for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that works to end and prevent homelessness. “It’s wholly ineffective.”
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com