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This story was researched and written by Safer Cities Research and is republished with permission.

Over the past two years, mobile crisis response units have transformed from theoretical idea to functioning program in cities across the country. Here are two key findings from a new national Safer Cities survey (methodology) that capture the widespread public support these programs continue to enjoy:

(1) Voters strongly support sending healthcare experts instead of armed officers for most issues related to mental health crises, substance abuse, or homelessness. Nearly three-quarters of voters (73%), including most Republicans, support sending healthcare experts over armed officers.

Support holds strong even after hearing an opposition message that these programs are “just another way to defund the police, and any money spent on these programs is money not spent on supporting police departments.” 81% of Ds & 57% of Rs still support sending healthcare experts over armed officers.

(2) Voters prefer that their city hire more healthcare experts over hiring more police officers, if “severe budget constraints” force the choice. In the face of “severe budget constraints,” most voters (52% to 40%) prefer that their governments “hire additional healthcare experts to create or expand a mobile crisis response unit” than “hire additional police officers.” Note the partisan gap: 72% of Ds say hire more healthcare experts while 63% of Rs say hire more officers.

Hearing that “hiring an additional healthcare expert, who is deployed as part of a mobile crisis response unit, costs taxpayers significantly less than hiring an additional police officer” boosts relative support for hiring the healthcare expert by five percentage points—from 52% to 57%. This shift is driven by increased support from Independents (7% gain) and Republicans (8% gain).

Matt Ferner

Matt Ferner is a journalist whose work on crime, justice, prosecutors, and police has influenced policy and been cited in academic journals and legal briefs.