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Albuquerque Community Safety Responders Hit the Streets

First-of-its-kind department launches, responded to 212 calls across ABQ in first month

October 13, 2021

The first cohort of responders from the new Albuquerque Community Safety department (ACS) have been on the ground and helping in the community for a full month. Mayor Tim Keller’s administration launched the first-of-its-kind department, giving 911 operators a third option to send to non-violent emergencies with or instead of paramedics, firefighters, and police officers. In its first month of service, ACS responders have already successfully responded to 212 calls for service across the city that involve mental health, homelessness, substance use, or other public health issues.

“Over the past year, our incredible team has brought this first-of-its-kind department to life, starting with an innovative idea and pushing all the way to training first responders and taking its first calls,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “With each call that trained behavioral health and community responders take, we are strengthening our entire public safety system. We are relieving pressure on police and fire, allowing officers to focus on violent crime and our EMTs to focus on urgent life-threatening situations. And we’re finally finding better ways to help connect people struggling with behavioral health, homelessness, and addiction access to trauma-informed services to make a difference in their lives.”

In its first month of operations from August 30 to October 1, ACS responders fielded an average of nine calls daily. Around half of those calls resulted in resources being offered, direct services being provided, or a transport. A call involving “resources” means that ACS helped connect someone to services such as case management, shelter services, a medical provider, or help with employment or financial assistance. Responders also proactively aid individuals they see in need as they drive through the community, resulting in a self-dispatch. ACS Responders self-dispatched 54 times in September.

Traditionally, the calls taken by ACS often pile up in police officers’ queues, leaving those in need of less-urgent help waiting for hours. Instead, ACS's average response time from dispatch to arrival on scene is just over 14 minutes.

“This innovative new department is already helping to free up our officers so they can respond to high-priority calls,” said Chief Harold Medina. “This third branch of public safety bridges a gap, and provides residents with the response they deserve.”

ACS calls for service have come from across the city. Below is a map of ACS responses:

“I’m proud of what we’ve built in such a short time,” said ACS Director Mariela Ruiz-Angel. “Our team has quickly built a revolutionary department that is, according to our data, helping those who need it. Working with our city partners we’re helping police officers to focus on addressing violent crime calls and our EMTs to quickly respond to urgent, life-threatening situations, and providing the right response at the right time.”

One of ACS’s highest priorities is recruitment of Responders. There are four types of responder positions and 23 of the 41 field-staff positions have been filled. ACS is actively recruiting for Behavioral Health Responder and Community Responder positions. Anyone interested in joining ACS can find applications and information here.