By Gerly Adrien
In times like these, we need to evaluate the data and see how we are approaching the best ways to help move our city forward. We need to look at what we are funding. I have requested the 9-1-1 calls that were non-criminal for 2019. In review, the top 20, 9-1-1 calls were non-criminal. Most of the calls were being made about areas that we are very familiar with, like the Walgreens, Everett Square, etc. Should we be putting officers stationed in these areas to decrease any activities? In more of a review, there was a familiar trend where since 2016, most of the top 20 calls were non-criminal.
Why do we not have a dedicated department to non-criminal calls when they are our top 20? Another question this brings up to me is, why is our $15 million budget for the Police only focused on criminal calls and activities? I looked at what Denver, Colorado, did recently to help with non-criminal calls in June 2020. They have a program that diverts some 9-1-1 calls to paramedics and mental health experts, rather than Police. For example, if you call 9-1-1 to report somebody trespassing or shouting at people on the street, you might expect police officers to respond. In Denver, you might get a different response – a paramedic and a mental health expert. Having this kind of response frees up officers to be more focused on the more violent, the more urgent issues in the community. In looking at neighboring cities, under the city of Somerville, they have a dedicated office for community outreach, help, and recovery. That comes with funding, a director, co-director, and a clinical coordinator.
It works for them.
Why can we not have something similar?
It would be under $200,000. My recommendations include: create the Office of Community, Help, and Recovery to help with non-criminal calls/actions; real commitment of funding to fund a director and one to two mental health experts; provide that office with funding to provide real resources to help with homelessness, addiction, etc.; create a special hotline/mobile app to report non-criminal relayed calls/information; six-month reviews on the office; seek input from the community with input meetings; seek input from current officers and report it; add in-person mental health training instead of e-learning; increase partnerships with Eliot Health Services and Cambridge Health Alliance.
Gerly Adrien is a Councilor-at-Large.