Albuquerque Community Safety took 16K calls in first year - Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Community Safety took 16K calls in first year

Two behavioral health responders talk with a woman who has been sleeping on the sidewalk with her belongings near the University of New Mexico last December. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque Community Safety department has responded to more than 16,000 calls during its first year in operation, about half of which it says were diverted from the police department.

“Mayor (Tim) Keller’s decision to create an alternative response to non-violent calls is making a real difference in Albuquerque,” said Police Chief Harold Medina, in a news release. “Our community needed a third branch to our public safety response and already ACS has helped decrease (Albuquerque Police Department’s) call volume and is freeing up our officers to respond to higher priority calls.”

Keller announced the creation of ACS in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in the summer of 2020. It is intended to be another option – besides APD and Albuquerque Fire Rescue – where specialists in behavioral health can be dispatched to certain calls.

In a news release Monday, Keller said the city is leading the way in “transforming public safety.”

“This first year of service and the thousands of calls that have been diverted from police and fire show just how much this type of response is needed in our communities,” Keller said.

According to a monthly report for August, the number of calls ACS responded to steadily increased each month since behavioral health responders began taking calls in September 2021. In August 2022, it responded to about 2,000 calls, about 1,200 of which were diverted from APD, according to a monthly report.

The majority of calls throughout the summer months have been for unsheltered individuals and welfare checks, followed by wellness checks and behavioral health issues. According to the news release, there have been no deaths or serious injuries during any of the calls for service.

AFR chief Gene Gallegos said while ACS has been an “amazing tool” for the city, but it’s not yet operational at all hours of the day.

“I am excited to see how truly effective the program will be once it’s running at full staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year,” Gallegos said. “As we all know, emergencies of all types have no set time for when they occur.”

The department includes mobile crisis teams – which partner officers with clinicians – behavioral health responders, community responders and street outreach responders.

It also includes the Violence Intervention Program which identifies individuals most likely to engage in gun violence and performs “custom notifications” in order to connect them to services instead.

A monthly report states that as of August the Violence Intervention Program had a 92% success rate – meaning 92% of participants have not engaged in further violent crime over the past two years. It’s unclear how many participants there have been total, but the report states there is an active caseload of 38 as of August.

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