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Pilot Program Finds Removing Police from Some 911 Calls Reduced Crime

Denver’s Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program prevented almost 1,400 crimes in six months in the city.

Pilot Program Finds Removing Police from Some 911 Calls Reduced Crime

Denver's STAR program enabled dispatchers to direct 911 calls to medics and clinicians. Photo via Adobe, by MoiraM

Denver, Colorado – A pilot program in Denver that replaced police officers with healthcare workers to respond to certain 911 calls reduced low-level crimes by 34%.

Launched in June 2020, the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program prevented almost 1,400 crimes in six months in the city, reports USA Today. The program is one of several launched in urban areas across the nation in response to the higher rate of difficult interactions individuals with mental illness and the homeless have historically had with law enforcement.

Before the launch of the pilot program, Denver dispatchers only directed 911 calls to police or fire departments. The STAR program enabled dispatchers to direct 911 calls to medics and clinicians. A two-person team responded in a van from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays to members of the community who were experiencing mental health issues (61%), homelessness (68%), poverty, or substance abuse issues.

In six months, the STAR team responded to 748 calls, none of which required police intervention, reports USA Today. Additionally, no one was arrested.

Carleigh Sailon, a social worker with the Mental Health Center of Denver told the newspaper the program takes a “non-judgmental, client-centered, supportive” approach to assisting people in crisis.

Different cities are experimenting with a variety of ways to respond to 911 calls involving individuals experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and poverty. Some, such as Los Angeles and San Antonio, designate mental health professionals as co-responders who accompany police officers on calls rather than replacing police officers completely.

Over the years, Campus Safety has run many articles, podcasts, and videos addressing the challenges associated with homelessness and mental health. They include:

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

2 responses to “Pilot Program Finds Removing Police from Some 911 Calls Reduced Crime”

  1. Peter Allen says:

    Let’s be clear, they didn’t prevent any crime, they simply prevented anyone from being charged for the crime. I suspect in most cases they were being called to a crime that had already occurred, urinating in public, open drug use, fight between two homeless people, etc, but they talked people down instead of involving law enforcement. You can have differing opinions on how effective that will be in preventing a homeless person from urinating in public again but let’s not conflate preventing arrest with preventing crime.

  2. Michael says:

    What crimes were prevented???
    Would these supposed crimes have taken place if law enforcement or fire department personnel responded???

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