ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A year ago, the Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS) began handling some of the calls that used to go to the Albuquerque Police Department. Now, a year after the program first began, ACS has taken over 16,000 calls, responded to community and behavioral health issues, reportedly without any resulting deaths or serious injuries.
Albuquerque created ACS as a third branch to the city’s existing public safety departments, the Albuquerque Police Department and Albuquerque Fire Rescue. The ACS’s goal is to better respond to things like homelessness, substance abuse, or behavioral health crises while freeing up police officers to focus on violent crime and other calls.
“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,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said in a press release. He says the program is “transforming public safety.”
Albuquerque isn’t the first city to create this sort of community-focused public service department. For example, in 1989, Eugene, Oregon saw the creation of “CAHOOTS” (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) to help deal with mental health crises. Similarly, San Francisco, California, began their Street Crisis Response Team in 2020.
Since it’s creation, San Francisco’s street crisis response Team has taken about 539 calls per month. Albuquerque’s ACS, on the other hand, has averaged about 866 calls per month in its first 11 months. And given that San Francisco has a larger population than Albuquerque, the number of calls-per-population in Albuquerque is much higher than in San Francisco.
KRQE News 13 previously reported that ACS could use more staff. At times, ACS has calls on-hold and calls they have to send back to the Albuquerque Police Department, ACS Director Mariela Ruiz-Angel told KRQE News 13.
As of October 3, 2022, ACS currently lists several job openings, ranging from behavioral health responders to a policy research analyst. All the postings are for full-time jobs.