Perspectives of people with mental health problems at hot spots: Attitudes and perceptions of safety, crime, and the police

Victoria Goldberg, Clair White, David Weisburd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People who live in places with high levels of crime and disorder are more likely to experience mental illness compared with those who do not live in these types of place (Weisburd et al., 2018; Weisburd & White, 2019). The increased police presence on high crime streets may also increase the likelihood that these individuals will encounter law enforcement. There is a strong body of literature focused on the relationship between neighborhoods and the physical and mental health of residents (e.g. Arcaya et al., 2016; Duncan & Kawachi, 2018; Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2003), but there are very few studies that look at the perceptions of people with mental illness directly, particularly as they relate to the environment of the street on which they live and attitudes toward the police. In turn, existing studies generally look at the most serious mental health problems (e.g. schizophrenia), ignoring more common mental health concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. This paper uses self-report data from a large in-person survey of people who live on crime hot spot and non-hot spot streets in order to assess attitudes among a broader group of persons with mental health problems. Furthermore, we examine the interaction between living in crime hot spots and non-hot spots and perceptions of these residents. Our findings in this broader sample confirm earlier studies that identify greater fear and less trust of the police among persons with mental illnesses. At the same time, our findings suggest that fear of crime and perceptions of police are moderated by living in a crime hot spot.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)650-664
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Law


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