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Study Shows Crime Reduced When Crisis Teams, as Opposed to Police, Respond to Low-Level Crimes

by Jacob Barrett

In June 2021, Denver, Colorado, launched its Support Team Assistance Response (“STAR”) program that consists of a two-person crisis response team, a medic and a clinician, who are called to provide crisis care, rather than arrest offenders.

A report published in the Science Advances journal by Stanford’s Graduate School of Education showed a 34% reduction in low-level crime when police did not respond, and the STAR program was used.

Data from the study showed that as a result of the responses by STAR, rather than police, there were fewer incidents that otherwise would have been responded to by police. The study further revealed the savings to tax payers was significant. STAR responses cost approximately $151 for each response, while police responses for similar incidents cost $646 — based on costs of arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment.

The STAR program is “clearly a better approach than having police show up to all these different situations that they don’t need to be present for,” said Vinnie Cervantes, who serves on the STAR Advisory Committee and works with the Denver Alliance for Street Health Response. “We’re kind of building that out right now.”

Studies have shown that in 2015 more than one in five people shot by police responding to low-level incidents had serious mental health illnesses. Advocates for reform have long argued that crisis response opposed to police response could have prevented the shootings.

Similar programs are being used in New York, Washington, San Francisco, and Eugene, Oregon. The Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets program in Oregon has been touted as a “model for success.”

While each state that has rolled out the crisis intervention program has structured its program differently, all of them have thus far demonstrated that there are reasonable alternatives to responding to crime other than the police. “We think we have something that’s really seminal in terms of suggesting the promise of this fairly radical reform of how we do emergency response,” said Thomas Dee, a professor at Stanford and the author of the Stanford study. 

Sources: USA TODAY, statesmanjournal.com

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