IF OUR PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY STOPPED NEGLECTING OUR HOMELESS AND MENTALLY ILL WE'D HAVE LESS CRIME.
(I was inspired by a piece that Charles Hentz a veteran Philadelphia police officer and now a firearms instructor wrote about this and I took it upon myself to translate it into a layman's terms)
There was a time when people who did not have the mental, physical, or emotional capacity to interact with society on a day to day basis were provided with a place for them to sleep, eat, and have their physical and emotional problems cared for. State and local facilities were built to house the mentally, emotionally, and physically challenged. These places also housed criminally insane and those who tended to hurt themselves and sometimes others.
Many big cities had "Tenderloin Districts", comprised of buildings turned into rooming-houses. These buildings rented out rooms by the day, week month, etc at very inexpensive rates, sometimes a dollar per day. They provided the bare essentials, bed, blankets, etc. a bathroom down the hall, usually one or two per floor. People who had more control of their mental, emotional, physical well being and didn't want to live in a state or city institution could live in a rooming house.
Today, in an ironic, twisted rationale these places are closed for various "humanitarian" reasons like defending the rights of of the mentally ill or structural code violations in the case of the rooming-houses; leaving legions of people to fend for themselves on the streets.
Many times these "Tenderloin Districts" are wiped out to make room for gentrification. Leaving legions of homeless people with mental, emotional, physical problems without support.
In a classical example of benign neglect government has washed it's hands of the responsibility to care for these folks and thrown the problem to law enforcement. The proper public health policy in place could have prevented many past tragedies.
Police have to deal with these elements when they finally commit criminal acts; pan handling, trespassing, violent outbursts to the public at large from a cast of social "untouchables" has become law enforcement's responsibility.
Police are not set up to handle a public health problems, and they should not be involved. The government has caused this problem with their lack of developing a plan to take care of these folks from a public health point of view. Too many times these unattended public health issues escalate into serious threats to public safety.