Street Criminals are NPCs that are programmed to commit minor crimes.
They have been featured in the series since Grand Theft Auto 2. They create a more "complete" environment in the city by simulating typical street crimes.
The street criminals in GTA 2 come in two varieties; car thieves and pickpockets.
The car thieves wear a green shirt and will usually steal any civilian or gang car that they can access, including the player's vehicle. Although the police make no attempts to stop car thieves, if a gang car is stolen, nearby gang members will open fire or chase the stolen vehicle. They will usually abandon the vehicle after a few minutes and run off to steal another.
The pickpockets, on the other hand, are distinguished by their red short-sleeve shirt and white undershirt. They will steal money from anyone on the street, including gang members and the player - usually uttering the phrase "Gimme your wallet!". Unlike the car thieves, if an on-foot police officer sees them committing crime, they will chase after them. Gang members also don't take kindly to being pick-pocketed and will usually open fire on the thief.
The criminals in GTA III come in two varieties. One of the criminals look strikingly similar to members of the Southside Hoods, except they have a different face texture and wear a brown jacket, as opposed to the Hoods' red or purple jackets. The other criminal wears a hat, a black shirt with white sleeves, and blue "camo" shorts and is a white male. Much like in GTA 2, they will steal any civilian or gang vehicle that they can access, including the player's vehicle. They can also be seen pickpocketing pedestrians - who usually run away or chase and fight them. If you point your gun at them, they will give you the money that they robbed from the pedestrian.
GTA Vice City
Like in previous games, the criminals in GTA Vice City come in three varieties; one is a black man with a black leather jacket, blue jeans, black gloves, and white sneakers. The other is a white man with a reddish-colored leather jacket, blue jeans, and black shoes. The last one, although the rarest of the three, is a Hispanic man, resembling a Pimp, with a red leather jacket, black pants with red leather stripes, and a sombrero. They can often be seen in groups in the North Point Mall, except for the Hispanic man. They really don't rob people of their money, rather, they will steal any civilian vehicle that they can access, including the player's vehicle. They will not attempt to steal motorcycles, scooters, gang cars, law enforcement vehicles, or fire trucks. However, if a police officer sees them car-jacking, or just walking in general, they will attempt to stop them - the player is rewarded a "Good Citizen Bonus" of $50, if they choose to help the officer. (There is a glitch where the player can repeatedly stomp on the criminal and receive the $50 bonus until the body disappears, even if the criminal is dead.)
Members of the Patrol Invest Group also don't take kindly to them and will sometimes try to shoot the street criminals.
GTA San AndreasThe criminals in GTA San Andreas will try to steal any vehicle, including the player's vehicle, however they will not steal any law enforcement vehicles. They may have hidden weapons, such as a knife or a pistol. Like in GTA Vice City, if a police officer sees, they will attempt to stop them. Unfortunately, the player no longer receives a "Good Citizen Bonus" for helping the officer, in fact, the player is more likely to attain a wanted level by doing so, possibly because it's considered interfering with police affairs. Nevertheless you can still help the police by blocking the criminal's car with your own or bike or even kill the criminals when out of the cops' sight. Drug dealers can also be seen throughout San Andreas. They are identifiable by their clothes and their actions. They wear either jeans and a black sleeveless shirt or a white hooded jacket. They stand in the same place for a long period of time and deal to other pedestrians. They carry a Pistol and a large amount of cash.
Although not necessarily "criminals", road ragers are also a fairly common sight in San Andreas, particularly in rural areas. If someone crashes into them, they will exit their vehicle and attempt to fight/kill the other driver. Sometimes they will be armed with a melee weapon, such as a shovel, golf club or a baseball bat. If they are successful in killing the other driver, they will usually just get back in their car and drive away. Occasionally, a police chase may randomly appear between armed felons in a car and police officers. The armed felons will do a drive-by at the cops during a chase.A police chase may also start if a motorist hits a police vehicle whether it be accidental, bad driving, on purpose, poor patience or caused by someone else pushing the car. The police will give chase to whoever hit their car and will attempt to stop them. Once they are stopped, the police will attempt to drag the pedestrian out of his/her car and will open fire on him/her regardless of if they are armed or not. Police will also shoot members of certain gangs on sight unless they are in a vehicle.
Sometimes a police officer can be seen running after a random NPC (who can be heard screaming and saying things like "I didn't do it!" or "It wasn't me!"), however, unlike Vice City, when the officer catches up to him/her he will then simply walk away. Strangely, the NPC will still run away screaming.Random NPCs may attack an officer for some unknown reason and the officer will take out a pistol and shoot at his attacker. However, the NPC may have a weapon of his/her own.
GTA Liberty City Stories
The criminals in GTA Liberty City Stories come in at least two different varieties; one has light skin and wears a grey hooded shirt, a blue jacket and green pants, while the other has dark skin and wears a blue and brown jacket, dark pants and a dark hat. A large amount of them appear in Bedford Point, although they also appear in other parts of the city. Like in the previous two games, the criminals are often chased by police officers, and the $50 "Good Citizen Bonus" for helping the officer to stop the criminal returns having been absent in GTA San Andreas.
GTA Vice City Stories
In GTA Vice City Stories, there are two varieties of street criminals. One has a vest and t-shirt with trousers. Another one, which is much rarer, sports a hat, a vest and 50's pants. If you help the cops to fight the street criminals, you will receive a $50 Good Citizen bonus.
You can also encounter them during Taxi missions, requesting you to stop at a business for them to rob. No Good Citizen bonus can be received, instead, the player gets a 2 star wanted level.
In GTA IV, the cops are much more vigilant and will try to arrest anyone who commits a crime, including anyone who tries to attack the player. After they have been arrested, the suspect is taken to the the nearest law enforcement vehicle, including ones that the player has saved by parking on one of their parking spaces. However, they tend to simply drive around, instead of taking the criminal to the nearest police station. Some criminals may also try to run away while the officer is escorting them to a police car. If the criminal is armed but not aggressive then the police officer will confiscate the weapon and say things like "A concealed weapon, huh? That's another crime to add to your sheet." or "Carrying a weapon in this town is a felony.". If the criminal is armed and aggressive they will attack the cops and the cops will arm themselves and try to kill the criminal. Like in GTA San Andreas, if the player tries to help an officer, they are more likely to attain a wanted level but they can still trip the criminal up and the police will thank the player if done. For some reason, if they see a street vendor attacking the player they will not arrest them but instead open fire despite the fact they don't have any weapon. This also includes security guards, bouncers, the clerk at a TW@, and the security guard at Perseus.
Street criminals will also appear in GTA V. A criminal can be seen running from cops in the trailer.