Community safety and policing

New York, New York
United States

Social media handle(s)
@Hester_Street (Twitter), @Hesterstreet (Instagram)

Analyzing data on police response to mental health crises by neighborhood to understand disproportionate impacts and potential avenues for change.

Each year, the New York City Police Department responds to around 200,000 calls related to people experiencing mental health crises. These responses can result in ineffective care, further trauma, or even violence and death. Moreover, during a mental health crisis, a person of color is disproportionately more likely to experience violence at the hands of police. Hester Street, a New York City–based nonprofit that provides urban planning, design, and development expertise to support community-led change in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, aims to understand how police responses to mental health crises disproportionately affect communities of color in New York City.

Hester Street analyzed data on neighborhood demographics, 911 calls for mental health emergencies, school calls to the police about students in distress, and use-of-force incidents, as well as data from the New York City Community Health Survey. It shared its initial findings with a group of mental health and community service practitioners to ground-truth the findings and hear about the human impact behind the statistics. Using the data and community insights, Hester Street is producing a fact sheet that will visualize policing patterns by neighborhood and race and will make the connection between the mental health emergency calls and lack of access to health insurance or mental health services. The aim is for organizing and advocacy groups to use this fact sheet as they seek the policies and funding needed to expand critical mental health services in the city. One window of opportunity the advocates hope to leverage is the increased funding from the governor to support mental health services; Hester Street’s analysis will reinforce their message about the racial disparities in policing patterns and demonstrate the need to invest in neighborhoods of color in the city.