What are these reports about?

Nationally and locally, policymakers and practitioners are interested in the people who frequently use publicly funded services, particularly crisis services. Most people who use crisis services do so infrequently during a year. A small number of people, however, use crisis services frequently, and sometimes they use more than one type of crisis service.

Allegheny County’s rich integrated data allows us to look at the people who use crisis services. This report summarizes key findings about the people who were involved with one or more of the following four crisis services in the years 2016 through 2017: hospital emergency departments, emergency homeless shelters, mental health crisis programs, and the criminal justice system. This summary report will be followed up by reports examining each of these four service areas in more detail.

What are the takeaways?

  • Of the people who used at least one of the four crisis services examined, 6% (10,655) met the definition of frequent users in at least one system. They accounted for 26% of all service episodes during this period.
  • There is little overlap between frequent utilizers of one type of crisis service and another. Just 9% of users were frequent in multiple systems. This does not mean they didn’t use other services, just that they were not frequent users of those systems.
  • Nonetheless, 26% of frequent users of mental health crisis services were also frequent users of hospital emergency departments, indicating that the emergency room might be a point of intervention for people in mental health crisis.
  • All frequent users of emergency shelter were connected to other human services prior to their first shelter stay during this period. This overlap suggests that although frequent utilizers of emergency shelters were connected to supports, the reasons behind people’s continued use of shelter were not adequately addressed through the services they were receiving.

Black residents are using crisis services at disproportionately high rates, and the disproportionality is more pronounced when looking at frequent utilizers. While 13% of the Allegheny County population is Black, 42% of people who used crisis systems (both frequent and non-frequent) were Black, and 49% of frequent utilizers were Black.

How is this report used?

This work is meant to be exploratory and descriptive in nature to help continue and expand the conversation about how we look at frequent utilizers and potential interventions going forward. By looking more closely at this population of frequent utilizers, we hope to gain insight into their needs, identify key intervention points, and find ways to encourage long-term wellness while reducing the need for repeat intense service usage.

Where can I go for more information?

For questions or suggestions, please reach out to DHS-Research@alleghenycounty.us

Latest data and analysis

An analytic report and interactive map describe homicides in our region using data from the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Focusing on 2016 through 2021, the analysis provides recent and long-term homicide trends as well as comparisons to rates nationally and in other cities. Homicides are just a fraction of gun violence, however, so we also provide data on non-fatal shootings for a more complete picture.

Since gun violence does not affect all geographic locations and populations equally, the analysis describes victim and perpetrator demographics and homicide locations by municipality, neighborhood and census tract. Our research highlights the people and places who are disproportionately impacted by homicide and gun violence in order to inform policy and violence prevention efforts.

What are the key takeaways?

  • Homicide is heavily concentrated in a small number of higher-need communities and overwhelmingly cuts short the lives of young Black men.
  • Both Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh saw increases in homicides from 2019 through 2021. This was after stable or declining trends from 2016 through 2019.
  • Firearms were used in nearly 90% of homicides.
  • Homicides usually occurred close to where victims lived. Nearly 90% of victims were murdered within 10 miles of their home. Females were twice as likely as males to be murdered at their own residence.

How is Allegheny County using this data?

Based on the homicide trends presented in this report and research on best practices, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) is sustainably funding public health approaches to community violence reduction that are rooted in evidence.

What other homicide data is available?

Two interactive dashboards provide up-to-date data on homicides in the County and homicides in the City of Pittsburgh.


Previous reports about homicide

In October of 2018, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded Allegheny County a Safety and Justice Challenge grant to reduce the population of the Allegheny County Jail by 20%. This series of reports outlines the progress made in the first three years of the project, as well as plans to continue reforms in the criminal justice system, address racial and ethnic disparities and engage community members in this work.

Current report

Allegheny County is committed to allocating criminal justice resources in a systematic way, utilizing evaluation and evidence-based programming to better understand the costs and benefits of various programs. To further this goal, Allegheny County partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice to implement a system of cost–benefit analysis throughout its criminal justice system. The cost analysis includes the cost of an arrest, the cost per day of incarceration or detention, and the cost per day of supervision, including adult and juvenile caseloads, in Allegheny County.

What can we learn from calculating costs in the criminal justice system?

Understanding the drivers of costs within these systems (e.g., changes in population served, changes in operating costs, or both) allows analysts to value the benefits of current and proposed programs. This information is also valuable for policy-makers who can compare the benefits and costs of programs to make informed management, budget and program decisions.

Previous report

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many jurisdictions across the country took measures to reduce their jail populations as a way of lessening the risk of disease spread. This included Allegheny County, which decreased the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) population by considering for release older and health-compromised individuals, individuals sentenced to the jail who could be paroled early, and individuals awaiting trial or probation violation hearings who could safely be released.

This data brief explores the decrease of the ACJ population between March 16, 2020, and June 1, 2020, and the recidivism of individuals released during this period.

What are the takeaways?

  • The ACJ population decreased 30% between March 16, 2020 and June 1, 2020, as a result of both decreased jail bookings and increased releases of eligible individuals.
  • Of those who were released during the early months of the pandemic, most were being held in the ACJ while awaiting a hearing for a County probation violation (34%) or awaiting trial (29%).
  • Many individuals who were released from jail during this period (63%) received support services through Pretrial Services, Re-Entry/Justice Related Services, or Adult Probation.
  • The people released from the jail during this period had a recidivism rate (i.e., a new criminal filing or jail booking within 90 days of release) of 11%. A comparison group of individuals who were released from the jail during the same period a year prior had a recidivism rate of 19%.

The City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police (PBP) tracks each incident in which an officer uses force with a subject. The most current report on police use of force and the previous report provide an overview of incidents in Pittsburgh. The reports describe trends, circumstances of incidents, control techniques used, and incident outcomes. The analyses also describe charges commonly filed against subjects, subjects’ demographics, and the distribution of incidents across the police force.

What are the takeaways?

  • Around one in 10 total arrests involve the use of force.
  • Most subject resistance (SR) incidents resulted from some form of attempted arrest: 74% of subjects resisted arrest during an on-view arrest (an arrest where probable cause is established by observing or “viewing” an offense), and 4% resisted during a warrant arrest.
  • The most commonly used control techniques were forcible handcuffing (used with 68% of resisting subjects) and “other,” which includes grabbing, pushing and pulling (58%), and takedowns (51%). Note that more than one control technique can be used and reported.

Previous reports:

Use of Force in Pittsburgh, 2010–2015

In Allegheny County, a preliminary arraignment is a defendant’s first court appearance, during which a judge notifies the defendant of their charges and a bail determination is made. Defendants are not guaranteed legal representation at preliminary arraignments, but lack of representation can have serious consequences for fairness and equity in court proceedings, as well as a substantial impact on the jail population.

In April 2017, the Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender began a pilot project utilizing existing staff to provide legal representation for all people arraigned during business hours at Pittsburgh Municipal Court. The outcomes of the first year of the pilot are encouraging. Compared to a matched sample, people represented by public defenders at preliminary arraignments:

  • Were less likely to receive cash bail
  • Were less likely to be booked into the Allegheny County Jail
  • Experienced less racial disproportionality in cash bail decisions and jail bookings

Click here to read the data brief.

The presence of police officers in schools has become increasingly common since the practice was introduced in the 1950s. While law enforcement in schools may deter criminal behavior, it can also have the effect of increasing youth juvenile justice system involvement. Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) wanted to learn more about youth arrests in Pittsburgh, particularly differences related to where an allegation happens — in or out of school — and how the outcomes of students involved with the juvenile justice system differ from those who have not been involved. We also wanted to know more about students’ involvement with human services in order to better understand where there might be gaps in services and supports for students involved with juvenile justice.

To explore these questions, we took a descriptive longitudinal look at students who were registered in Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) in school year 2010 and followed them through 2018.

What we found:

  • One out of four middle and high school students who attended Pittsburgh Public Schools in the 2010 school year had at least one allegation in juvenile court during the study period. Of those allegations, 37% were made by PPS police.
  • Eighty percent of students with allegations were Black, while only 58% of the total student body was Black. The rate of disproportionately was similar for allegations made by school police and those made outside of school.
  • Allegations made by PPS police were much more likely to be for lower-level offenses than allegations outside of school, but more than half of students with either type of allegation had involvement with the adult criminal justice system later on.
  • Students with an allegation had a higher number of school absences and suspensions throughout their time in school than those with no allegations.
  • Students with an allegation were more likely than other students to be involved with the child welfare system, mental health services and live in assisted housing.

In recent years, PPS has put in place programs to divert students from the criminal justice system as well as implement restorative justice practices in schools, which we hope will lead to a reduction in disproportionality and improved outcomes for students.

 

Click here to view the full report. 

 

Throughout the United States, people experiencing behavioral health challenges are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and Allegheny County is no exception. To better understand the state of our current system and to learn more about promising approaches in other jurisdictions, Allegheny County sought an independent evaluator to conduct a study. From among a number of proposers, the county selected researchers from the University of Pittsburgh who interviewed dozens of stakeholders, analyzed justice system data, examined models from other jurisdictions, and solicited feedback through a series of workshops.

Select from the links below to learn more about the researchers’ findings and recommendations:

This report describes women in the Allegheny County criminal justice system with a goal of better understanding the population by exploring their demographics and human services history. The analysis describes women at three stages in the criminal justice system: women who had criminal filings, women booked into the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ), and women released from the ACJ.

 Key findings include:

  • While overall justice system involvement is declining in Allegheny County, the proportion of women involved is growing. For example, between 2008 and 2018, overall rates of incarceration in Allegheny County fell by 32%, but women’s rates of incarceration declined at a slower rate than men’s — a decrease of 23% compared to 34% for men.
  • The majority of women booked in the jail were white (59%), but Black women were disproportionately represented when taking population into account: Black women were 4.2 times more likely to be in jail than white women.
  • Prior to incarceration, women were more likely than men to have received income supports, used the emergency room, and received mental health and/or drug and alcohol treatment. They were also more likely to access these services after release from jail. These findings highlight the unique needs of women, while also suggesting points of contact where intervention might be effective.

Click here to read the full report.

Analysis of arrests over time provides valuable insights about a city and its changing crime trends and law enforcement policies. This series of three reports uses data from the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and the Allegheny County Data Warehouse to look at arrests since 2001 and the people who were involved.

Arrest Trends in the City of Pittsburgh provides an overview of arrests and people who were arrested in 2001 through 2015, including rates over time, crime types, demographics of people arrested and neighborhood trends.

People Arrested More Than Once in the City of Pittsburgh takes a closer look at the people who were arrested multiple times. This analysis describes the demographics of repeat arrestees, the types of crimes for which they were commonly arrested, neighborhoods where repeat arrests occurred, and human services and criminal justice system involvement of repeat arrestees.

Human Services Involvement of People Arrested in Pittsburgh describes involvement with other systems of people who were arrested. Analysis of people’s involvement with human services and the criminal justice system before, during and after arrest offers insight into the needs and service experiences of this population.

 

In 2016, the Allegheny County Jail began offering naloxone, a life-saving medication that rapidly reverses opioid overdose, to people exiting the jail. Since then, the jail has distributed over a thousand naloxone kits. This data brief describes the naloxone distribution program and provides information on the people who received naloxone, including their demographics, the communities they lived in after leaving jail, and how many died of an overdose following their release from jail.

Click here to read the data brief.

The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative is a group of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, volunteers and community members who are committed to improving the transition of people returning to the community after leaving the Allegheny County Jail. This report describes the Jail Collaborative’s 2016-2019 strategic plan, progress that has been made in the past year and advancements expected in the coming years.

Click here to read the report.