Demand on Police Resources: Spatial Assessment of Suicide-Related Calls in a Concentrated Urban Setting

Flora I. Matheson, St. Michael's Hospital
Maria I. Creatore, St. Michael's Hospital
Piotr Gozdyra, St. Michael's Hospital
Rahim Moineddin, University of Toronto
Sean B. Rourke, St. Michael's Hospital
Nancy Read, St. Michael's Hospital
Anne E. Rhodes, St. Michael's Hospital
Paul S. Links, St. Michael's Hospital
Richard H. Glazier, St. Michael's Hospital
Scott A. Maywood, St. Michael's Hospital

ABSTRACT
With the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill over the last 30 years, the police have emerged as front-line mental health workers. The use of police rather than health professionals increases demand on law enforcement agencies to provide management of individuals in crisis. Using epidemiological and spatial approaches this research examines the differential demand in suicide-related calls across police divisions. Data include all calls for suicide-related incidents received and responded to in 16 police divisions located in Canada's largest city. Preliminary findings suggest that police response to suicide calls rose substantially over the period of study with a greater increase for females than males. Results also suggest increased calls for specific age-sex groups (males age 16 to 20 and females age 46 to 55). Methods of suicide that place greater demand on police time (e.g., pills and barbiturates, narcotics) or require diffusion of volatile situations (e.g. weapons) show spatial patterns across divisions. The increased demand on police resources to manage the mentally ill is an important issue for urban policy-planners and for police managers responsible for the mental health of their front-line officers.

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Updated 05/20/2006