Hitchhikers were involved in an estimated 0.26% of the accidents and 0.63% of the crimes in California during the study period.
Hitchhikers were involved in an estimated 397 accidents during the six month study period of which 61 were reported as part of this study.
There were an estimated 2,828 reported major crimes involving hitchhikers during the study period of which 435 were reported as part of the study.
Hitchhikers were more likely to be victims (71.7%) than perpetrators (28.3%) of major crimes.
Hitchhiker characteristics were fairly consistent whether they were victims of crimes, involved in accidents or suspects of crimes. The average age was about 21 years old, with females around 19 years old and males around 22 years old. Between 9% and 12% of all hitchhikers were female.
Female hitchhikers were seven to ten times more likely to be victims of crimes than males.
About 80% of the crimes against female hitchhikers were sex related.
Very few sex crimes were perpetrated by hitchhikers.
The other party involved in a hitchhiker related crime was a motor vehicle driver in 95% of the cases.
The average age of the other party involved with hitchhikers in crimes and accidents was 28 years.
It is estimated that between 9% and 12% of all drivers who picked up hitchhikers were females.
At first glance, hitchhiking appears to be a desirable mode of transportation. It provides transportation to practically any place in the United States for people who might not otherwise be able to afford to go. In addition, it provides a system of emergency transportation for motorists whose cars become disabled. There is presently a shortage of gasoline which may become increasingly severe. Hitchhiking would be a way to increase the efficiency of automotive transportation.
Our society has generally discouraged hitchhiking through laws and persuasion. It is felt that a great deal of crime is associated with hitchhiking. Cases of crimes by or upon hitchhikers are often seen in newspapers. Obviously, when a person is inside a vehicle with a stranger, he is especially vulnerable and has restricted his chance to flee or call for help.
The purpose of this report is to describe the types of crimes and accidents which involve hitchhikers; and to estimate the importance of the problem relative to the total problem of crimes and accidents in California. Questions to be answered include the following:
Data were gathered from all Field Commands of the Highway Patrol. In addition, cooperation was requested from the chiefs of all police departments and sheriffs of all counties in California. Law enforcement agencies were asked to respond to six questions and to send a copy of their crime or accident report to the Department in certain cases involving hitchhikers. The crimes selected were those offenses the suspect committed for which the law enforcement officer did, or would, place the suspect in custody. Reports on all traffic accidents involving hitchhikers were also requested. Hitchhikers were defined as those people who were actively soliciting rides as their sole mode of transportation. Pedestrians not soliciting rides and persons who were temporarily pedestrians because their cars had broken down were specifically excluded. Copies of the letters and forms soliciting cooperation are included in Annex B.
The reports returned included violations of various legal codes for minor offenses which did not involve a victim. These cases were separated from the more serious offenses and were classified as "victimless crimes" even though not all the violations were crimes. For example, 21 cases were reported in which a hitchhiker was taken into custody for not having identification (40302 CVC).
Most of the local police departments and sheriffs offices cooperated in the study. Some agencies declined to participate because of lack of funds. Establishing a well controlled statewide reporting system is expensive, difficult and time consuming as this Department has learned in developing the existing stolen vehicle and accident reporting systems. The lack of funds and limited time reduced the ability to create a system which could collect all hitchhiker related crimes and collisions. "Hitchhiker" is not one of the usually reported categories of parties involved in crimes or accidents. The larger agencies had to establish special channels, which probably involved several persons, to watch for possible hitchhiker involvement. Many of the crimes involving hitchhikers were probably missed in these large agencies due to systemic problems.
Small agencies would have only one person watching for hitchhiker crimes or accidents. Such agencies would be expected to have no cases or only a few. It would be difficult to remember to watch for hitchhiker involvement in all crime and accident reports for the whole six month study period. Therefore, although such agencies would not individually have systemic problems, the overall effect would be similar to that of the large agencies.
It is felt that the factors determining which reports were submitted were random and there is no reason to believe that the data sent to us do not form a representative sample of the total crimes and accidents involving hitchhikers. It is concluded that the proportions involved in the classifications of crimes, accidents and hitchhiker characteristics in the sample are very similar to those which actually occurred in all such crimes and accidents in the State during this period.
There is no straightforward way to estimate the fraction of crimes which were reported to us from the data received. However, some additional information exists in published reports which will allow a rough estimate of the total number of hitchhiker related crimes during the study period.
662 reports received from the law
enforcement agencies were categorized as follows:
The reports were received from 106 different agencies (Annex C). A few agencies reported that they had no hitchhiker involved crimes or accidents and it is assumed that most of the agencies which did not respond also had no qualifying cases.
explained in Sections VI11 and IX,
the above figures were multiplied by 6.5 to arrive at the following
estimates of the total reported accidents and crimes which occurred
during the study period:
3, 4 and 5 show the age, sex and
length of trip the hitchhiker was taking. The data for the
accident victims is probably the most representative of
all hitchhikers although great similarity exists among
all four categories. Table 3 shows the percentage of
hitchhikers by age group by category. Nearly half of the hitchhiker
crime victims were in the 15 to 19 year old category. The
victimless crime suspects had a similar though slightly
older distribution. The hitchhikers who committed crimes
against victims were 2 years older (23 years) on the average
with nearly half in the 20 - 24 year old bracket. The
accident victims were an average of 22 years of age.
Table 4 shows the percentage distribution between sexes by category. For males, the category of hitchhiker crime suspects had the highest fraction. For females, the category of crime victims had the highest fraction. This is accounted for by the fact that females were over represented in sex crimes. The females are probably also over represented in the victimless crimes as runaways. The 10% and 12% females in the remaining two categories probably represents the fraction of all hitchhikers who are females.
Table 5 shows the percentage of trip distances by category. The length of trips was usually longer for the hitchhiker suspects of victimless crimes. There is an apparent weighting toward shorter trips for the hitchhiker suspects in crimes with victims. This probably reflects the fact that many were hitchhiking to find a victim and really had no destination in mind. A similar weighting toward short trips for the hitchhiker victims is an indication that most of the crimes occurred in cities and most of the hitchhikers in cities are on short trips.
Tables 6, 7, 8 and 9 show the age and sex of the other involved party, his relationship to the hitchhiker and the type of vehicle involved in the incident. All the data show close similarities. No other parties than the hitchhiker were involved in the victimless crimes.
Table 6 shows that the other parties were older on the average than were the hitchhikers (see Table 3). A two way classification of the age of hitchhiker by age of the other involved party did not show a significant relationship. Evidently, hitchhiker suspects did not select victims according to age. In contrast to the hitchhiker suspects, the driver suspects were younger than the driver victims. The driver suspects' average age was 27 years compared to 30 years for both crime and accident victims. The distributions in the crime and accident victim categories were probably representative of all drivers who give rides to hitchhikers.
Table 7 shows that most of the drivers and other involved parties were males. Nearly all (98.01%) of those who were crime suspects were males. The other two categories are very similar to corresponding data for hitchhikers (Table 4). Again, the data for crime and accident victims probably represents the approximate proportions between sexes of the people who give rides to hitchhikers which are about 87% male and 12% female.
Table 8 shows that the other involved party was nearly always a driver with only about 5% in all other categories.
Table 9 shows that the vehicle involved was usually an automobile whether the driver was either a victim or a suspect in a crime. Trucks, trailers, pickups and other vehicles contributed only about 17% to the total.
Table 10 shows a pronounced peak around midnight for crimes by hitchhikers. More crimes occurred on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but the differences in day of week could arise from counting errors generated by the fact that many crimes occurred around midnight. A few minutes difference could cause the crime to be counted on a different day. The times of the crimes were not reported in over 34% of the cases.
In Table 11, victimless crimes by hitchhikers show the same sort of minimum activity in the morning. Afternoon and night activity is spread out.
Table 12 shows that crimes in which a male hitchhiker as a victim reached a peak around midnight and a minimum around 9 a.m. The crimes against females, which were predominantly sex related, reached a maximum around 5 p.m. although they seem more evenly distributed than crimes against males. They also reached a minimum around 9 a.m. The distribution by day of week is fairly uniform, although slightly more crimes occurred to males on Saturday and Sunday while Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays were the highest days for females. The pattern does not seem significant.
Table 13 shows that the accidents involving hitchhikers followed the same sort of pattern in time of day although with an even less pronounced maximum in evening and minimum around 4 a.m. Tuesdays had the least accidents and Sundays the most. The Sunday accidents were concentrated in the early morning and may have been related to Saturday night activity.
Tables 14 through 18 show the relationships between type of crime, weapon used, victim's injury, age, sex and the distance of the trip on which the crime occurred, when the hitchhiker was the victim. The figures are based on a sample of 301 cases. Annex E gives the Penal Code violations included in each of the categories. When violations of several sections were charged, the crime was categorized by the crime which seemed most descriptive of the motive or most serious.
Crimes in this category were almost evenly divided between sexes. An estimate of the proportion of female hitchhikers can be made if one assumes that robberies and thefts were equally likely against females and that females were equally likely to be involved in accidents and victimless crimes. The data then suggests that between 9% and 12% of the hitchhikers were females and that they were between seven and ten times as likely to be crime victims. Nearly all the crimes against females were sex related. Even those classified as assaults or kidnappings often appeared to have sex as a motive. Over half the crimes against males were robberies. Assaults accounted for the next largest category and then thefts. The kidnappings were more the nature of assaults and harassments than pure kidnappings. The crimes classified as rapes of males were actually violations of the sex perversion sections of the California Penal Code.
Table 14 shows that the male victims were older (23 years) than the females (19 years) on the average. There was no apparent relationship between age and type of crime after accounting for sex related differences.
Table 15 shows that the distances the hitchhikers were travelling when the crime occurred were similar between sexes. Trip lengths varied from less than a mile to several thousand miles. The females were on slightly longer trips (112 miles) on the average than the males (103 miles), although the majority of trips were under six miles for both sexes. There is no apparent relationship between distance and type of crime.
Table 16 shows that only about one-third of the crimes resulted in physical injury. One of the two fatal cases was reported to us as a homicide without further details. The rape fatality was a case in which a male and female hitchhiker both were knifed and shot by a man and for which the suspect was charged with murder, rape and robbery. The serious injury category was most common in assault if there were any injuries. Robberies resulted in a smaller percentage of serious injuries. The rape cases were most likely to result in minor abrasions if any injury was inflicted.
Table 17 shows that weapons other than hands and feet were used in fewer than half the crimes. Robberies accounted for the highest percentages of gun and knife use. Weapons were used less often in the crimes against females. Guns were used more often (18.18%) than knives (13.80%).
Table 18 shows the relationship between the number of hitchhiker victims travelling together and the number of suspects involved in crimes. Just under half of the cases occurred with an assault by a single suspect on a single victim. About one-fourth of the cases were perpetrated by two suspects on one victim. Nine percent
of the cases had three suspects and one victim. No other combinations accounted for over 5% of the cases.
Table 19 shows that the distribution of hitchhiker age was not related to type of crime other than that the assault suspects may have been slightly older than suspects of other crimes. The average age is nearly the same as for male hitchhiker crime victims.
*Includes eight auto thefts
Table 20 shows that the victim's average injury was slightly more serious in the crimes by hitchhikers than in crimes in which a hitchhiker was victim. No fatalities were reported. Of victims reported, 22.42% had visible wounds and 7.76% had minor abrasions.
*Includes eight auto thefts
The pattern of weapon use (Table 21) was similar to that of the crimes where a male hitchhiker was victim, although apparently there was a slightly higher percentage of cases (57.5%) in which weapons were used. More knives (25.0%) were used than guns (22.41%).
Table 22 shows the relationship between length of trip and type of crime. Most robberies occurred when a hitchhiker either stated that he was on a short trip or did not state a trip length. This suggests that those people were hitchhiking for the purpose of the robbery and not to take the trip. The distribution for thefts is much more uniform and probably indicates that the hitchhiker was often actually travelling and committed the theft only incidentally. The assaults are similar to the robberies.
Table 23 shows the number of hitchhiker suspects travelling together compared to the number of victims. This table should be compared to Table 18 which appears to be very similar. Most crimes are committed by a lone suspect upon a single victim. But it is much more likely that several suspects will commit crimes upon a single victim than the reverse both in the case of hitchhikers as suspects and as victims. In this table, 50% of the cases involved a single victim and a single suspect; 26.72% involved two suspects and one victim; 8.62% had three suspects and one victim.
Hitchhikers were arrested for a variety of crimes which had no victim. In most of the cases, the suspect was originally questioned because he was illegally hitchhiking. Over 26,000 citations were written by the California Highway Patrol during the study period for this offense. Usually, the suspect was issued a traffic citation and released. The cases described in this section were those for which the suspect was held in custody. The categories are narcotics (13*91%), runaway (29.14%), no identification (13.91%), illegal hitchhiking (19.20%) and other (23.84%).
Table 24 shows that females were usually held because they were runaways. The crimes were fairly evenly distributed by classification for the males.
Table 25 shows the age distribution by type of crime. The pattern was similar to corresponding tables for hitchhikers as crime victims and perpetrators except for the category of runaways. Nearly half the suspects were in the 15-19 year old age bracket.
Table 26 lists the location at which these hitchhikers were arrested. Over half the arrests were on freeways and 21% were on city streets. Almost all the arrests for no identification were on freeways.
Table 27 shows that these suspects were arrested on much longer trips on the average than were hitchhikers as victims or perpetrators of crimes. The largest number of arrested hitchhikers was on trips over 500 miles long. There was no obvious relationship between type of crime and distance.
Tables 28 and 29 show the extent of injuries and the percentage of injuries. The hitchhiker was killed in 11% of the cases reported and injured in another 41%. Another party was killed in 5% and injured in another 27% of the cases. Overall, there were no fatalities in 85% of the incidents and no injuries in 26%. Two persons were killed in one case, two or more persons were injured in 61% of the cases.
Table 30 shows the type of roadway where the accident occurred. About 60% were on conventional two-way roads. Over 18% were on freeways and an additional 13% were on freeway ramps.
An estimate can be made of the total number of hitchhiker crimes if it is known what fraction of crimes were reported and what fraction of those were reported to us. No accurate method of estimating these two fractions is available, but the Los Angeles Police Department published information which allows an approximate estimate of the fraction reported to us. They used their automated Pattern Recognition and Information Correlation (PATRIC) system to analyze hitchhiker crimes for the period December 1, 1971 through April 30, 1972 (five months).
The survey was done after the close of the period but before all records may have been entered into the system. And their definition of hitchhiker was not as restrictive as ours. The effects of these two circumstances tend to cancel each other in terms of the number of cases.
Their results were:
The number of reports received from the LAPD was 116, 30 of these were not related to those categories. The rest could be placed into the same categories as follows:
Each of these categories is divided by the number of cases and then multiplied by 5/6 to correct for the difference of one month in the lengths of the study periods:
Each of these ratios is an independent estimator of the actual ratio of the reported crimes which were reported to us. The ratios are all fairly consistent and it seems reasonable to average the values to obtain 1 to 6.5 as the estimate of the ratio of reports sent to us by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Since the same sort of systematic problems would be expected to affect other agencies involved in the study, it seems reasonable that the ratio 1 to 6.5 would be representative, and it will be used here. The true fraction is probably between half and double this figure.
The total number of reported crimes involving hitchhikers for the study period would then be 6.5 times 587 or 3,816 categorized as follows:
These figures can be compared to the total number of crimes reported in the State. Information from the Bureau of Criminal Statistics of the California Department of Justice indicates that 225,836 crimes were reported in major categories of this study's concern during the third quarter of 1973 (Annex D). The study period started two months before the third quarter and ended one month after. Doubling the number should give a close estimate of the number of crimes which occurred during the study period. The result is 451,672 crimes in our categories during the study. This figure should only be compared with the estimated 2,828 cases which involved victims. Combining all of the estimates, it appears that only 0.63% of the major crimes in California during the study period involved hitchhikers.
The fraction of crimes which are reported to law enforcement agencies can be estimated from material published in "The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society, A Report by the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice", page 21. Their figures show that nationally, only about 28% of rapes, over 50% of assaults and about 65% of robberies are reported. This adjustment would increase the totals substantially for both hitchhiker involved crimes and others, but the figure of 0.63% would remain unchanged.
There were 37 reported injury accidents involving hitchhikers. After applying the correction factor of 6.5, we estimate that 241 injury accidents occurred involving hitchhikers during the study period. This is only 0.26% of the 91,798 injury or fatal accidents which occurred in the State during the corresponding time period in 1972 according to Departmental records. Included in the 241 cases above would be 78 cases of a hitchhiker being struck in the roadway by a vehicle. This is 1.06% of the 7,376 pedestrian injury or fatal accidents which occurred during the study period.
The California Highway Patrol made 26,685 arrests during the study period for the California Vehicle Code violations which are used for illegal hitchhiking (CVC 21461.5, 21956, 21957). Nearly all of these were for hitchhikers on freeways. Furthermore, a large number of hitchhiker arrests are made by sheriff's departments or police departments for standing in roadways to hitchhike. It seems conservative to estimate that there were at least as many combined arrests by these other agencies as by the CHP or about 26,000. The total arrests of hitchhikers in California during the study period was therefore probably more than 52,000. This figure could be multiplied by whatever fraction seems reasonable to arrive at an estimate. For example, if 1% of the hitchhiker trips resulted in arrests, the estimate of the number of trips would be 5.2 million during the study period. The 1% figure may well be a high estimate.
Females are about eight times as likely victims of crime as males. This difference is wholly accounted for by the proportions of sex crimes. Even so, female victims of hitchhiker related crimes represent only a small fraction of sex crimes in California.
Partly because of the sex crimes, hitchhikers are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crimes. Most of the victims of hitchhiker crimes were males. There was only one sex crime out of 116 cases of crimes committed by hitchhikers.
Though only a small percentage, many of the hitchhiker crime perpetrators were hitchhiking for the purpose of their crime, and many of the driver perpetrators picked up hitchhikers for the purpose of their crime. Since there are potentially vast numbers of driver or hitchhiker victims, it is doubtful that reducing the number of either would substantially reduce the number of crimes. There would still be many potential victims to choose from.
No independent information exists about hitchhikers who are not involved in crimes. Without such information, it is not possible to conclude whether or not hitchhikers are exposed to high danger. However, the results of this study do not show that hitchhikers are over represented in crimes or accidents beyond their numbers. When considering statistics for all crimes and accidents in California, it appears that hitchhikers make a minor contribution.