Abstract: Over the past thirty years, cities across the US have adopted quality of life ordinances aimed at policing social marginality. While scholars have documented zero-tolerance policing and emerging tactics of therapeutic policing in these efforts, little attention has been paid to 911 calls and forms of third-party policing to govern public space and the poor. Drawing on an analysis of 3.3 million 911 and 311 call records and participant observation alongside police officers, social workers, and homeless men and women residing on the streets of San Francisco, this paper elaborates a model of “complaint-oriented policing” to explain additional causes and consequences of policing poverty. Situating the police within a broader bureaucratic field of poverty governance the paper demonstrates how policing aimed at the poor can be initiated by callers, organizations, and government agencies and how police officers manage these complaints in collaboration and conflict with agencies of health, welfare, and sanitation. Expanding the conception of the criminalization of poverty, often centered on incarceration or arrest by police, the study reveals previously unforeseen consequences of move-along orders, citations, and their threats that dispossess the poor of property, create barriers to services and jobs, and increase vulnerability to violence and crime.
Chris Herring published the article "Complaint-Oriented Policing: Regulating Homelessness in Public Space" in the American Sociological Review.