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Hot spots of mental health crises: A look at the concentration of mental health calls and future directions for policing

Clair White (Department of Criminology, Law & Society, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)
Victoria Goldberg (Department of Criminology, Law & Society, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 27 April 2018

Issue publication date: 4 May 2018

1187

Abstract

Purpose

A strong body of research has established the concentration of crime in a small number of street segments or “hot spots” throughout urban cities, but the spatial distribution of mental health-related calls for services is less well known. The extent to which these calls are concentrated on a small number of street segments, similar to traditional crime calls for service is understudied. The purpose of this paper is to examine the concentration of mental health calls and the spatial distribution of street segments with mental health calls to provide directions for law enforcement and place-based policing.

Design/methodology/approach

Using call for service data from a large city on the East coast, the current study examines whether mental health calls for service are concentrated on street segments, and tests spatial dispersion to whether these “mental health hot spots” are spread throughout the city or clustered in space. Finally, the authors explore the relationship between mental health calls and violent and drug calls by calculating the correlation and using a spatial point pattern test to determine if mental health calls are spatially similar to violent and drug calls.

Findings

The authors found that mental health calls are concentrated on street segments; specifically 22.4 percent of calls are located on 0.5 percent of city street segments. Additionally, these street segments are fairly dispersed throughout the city. When comparing the spatial similarity of mental health calls to violent and drug calls, they are highly correlated suggesting a relationship between the calls types, but the location of mental health calls appears to be different from violet and drug calls.

Originality/value

Very few studies have examined the location of mental health calls and whether they are concentrated in small areas similar to crime, but such research can provide police officers new approaches to working with people with mental health problems. The police are the primary emergency response for calls involving someone with a mental illness or experiencing a mental health crisis and the authors provide suggestions for policing that draw from strategies used in hot spot policing and mental health responses, like CIT, to address challenges of modern policing and working with people with mental health problems.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: this work was funded by the National Institutes of Health (Grant No. 5R01DA032639-03, 2012).

Citation

White, C. and Goldberg, V. (2018), "Hot spots of mental health crises: A look at the concentration of mental health calls and future directions for policing", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 41 No. 3, pp. 401-414. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-12-2017-0155

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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