Doctor of Philosophy
For many decades the police have been the de facto responders to persons with perceived mental illness (PwPMI). However, having the police in this role has come with negative repercussions for PwPMI, such as disproportionately experiencing criminalization and use of force. In recognizing these issues, the police—and more recently, the community—have developed responses that either seek to improve interactions between the police and PwPMI or remove the police from this role altogether. However, in either case, these efforts are reactive in nature, responding to crises that arguably could have been prevented had a timelier intervention taken place. Further, evidence on certain police responses to PwPMI, such as Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) and co-response teams, suggests that they endure deployment-related challenges, thus limiting their reach to PwPMI.
Drawing from the Criminology of Place and existing place-based policing strategies, the present dissertation argues that efforts focused on responding to PwPMI should instead be proactively deployed, targeting areas where interactions between police and PwPMI concentrate spatially. Doing so would not only result in efficient deployment of scarce resources but would permit police- and community-based efforts to have a greater reach to PwPMI and thus prevent future interactions with police. To-date, however, there have been few empirical and theoretical investigations into the spatial patterns of PwPMI calls for service that could inform such proactive, place-based efforts. Specifically, we do not currently understand: (1) the degree to which PwPMI calls for service concentrate within certain geographical contexts (such as a small city); (2) whether the degree of PwPMI call concentration and the location of these calls remain stable over time; and (3) what theoretical frameworks explain why PwPMI calls for service occur where they do. Drawing on seven years (2014-2020) of calls for service data from the Barrie Police Service and data from the 2016 Canadian Census, the present dissertation employs various methods of spatial analysis to fills these specific knowledge gaps.
Although the theoretical investigation confirmed the findings of previous work that found no association between social disorganization theory and the spatial patterns of PwPMI calls for service, the present dissertation revealed: (1) PwPMI calls for service are highly concentrated within the context of a small city, even more so than what has previously been uncovered in larger jurisdictions; (2) the degree of PwPMI call concentration is stable over time, falling within a narrow proportional bandwidth of spatial units; and (3) PwPMI calls for service, and their concentrations, occur in the same places over time—even during the COVID-19 pandemic—and are thus spatially stable. As such, though more scholarship is needed on theories that might help explain why PwPMI calls occur where they do, the findings of the present dissertation strongly support the proactive, place-based deployment of resources to PwPMI.
Summary for Lay Audience
For a variety of reasons, the police have become the primary responders to persons with perceived mental illness (PwPMI). However, having the police in this role has led to consequences for PwPMI, such as being more likely to be arrested or experiencing use of force. In recognizing these issues, the police and the community have developed specialized responses to PwPMI that either aim to: (1) improve interactions between the police and PwPMI and their outcomes; or (2) remove the police from the role of responding to PwPMI.
Although research on specialized responses to PwPMI show that they are moderately effective, they face one significant drawback: they are reactive. In other words, specialized police and community-based efforts to PwPMI focus their resources on responding to PwPMI who are already in crisis and are therefore tasked with addressing a situation that could have been avoided had someone intervened sooner. Instead, what this dissertation argues is that specialized police and community-based efforts should be proactive in their approach, focusing on hot spots of PwPMI calls for police service to have a greater reach to the people they are intended to help.
While there is a small body of literature which shows that PwPMI calls cluster in hot spots, we still do not know: (1) the degree to which PwPMI calls cluster in smaller jurisdictions; (2) whether the degree of PwPMI call clustering remains stable year-over-year; (3) whether PwPMI calls occur in the same places year-over-year; and (4) what theories might explain why PwPMI calls occur where they do. In an attempt to inform proactive efforts to PwPMI, this dissertation sought to generate knowledge on these four areas.
While the theoretical analysis failed to uncover why PwPMI calls occur where they do, the remaining results show: (1) PwPMI calls cluster to a strong degree in a small city; (2) the degree of PwPMI call clustering remains stable year-over-year; and (3) PwPMI calls largely occur in the same places year-over-year. Altogether, the results of this dissertation provide strong evidence in support of proactive police and community-based efforts in hot spots of PwPMI calls.
Koziarski, Jacek, "The Spatial Concentration, Stability, and Specialization of Mental Health Calls for Service: Evidence in Support of Proactive, Place-Based Interventions" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8915.
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