Bernalillo County’s more than 670,000 residents rely almost exclusively on local government to provide a safe living environment.
This fiscal year, the county will spend some 37-percent of its nearly $500 million dollar budget on public safety. The community programs and services that the county provides are the focus of this year’s effort to highlight county government. The National County Government Month theme for 2013 is -- Smart Justice: Creating Safer Communities.
National County Government Month has been celebrated each April since 1991 to raise public awareness about county government’s roles and responsibilities and, clearly, Bernalillo County addresses public safety in many powerful and creative ways. Here are several examples:
Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) currently employs more than 300 deputies and is expected to respond to some 60,000 service calls this year. Recently, BCSO participated in a county gun buy-back program. Nearly $80,000 was spent to successfully remove more than 600 unwanted and unused guns from the streets. The program was sponsored by District 1 County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley.
• BCSO has also invested in a five-person mountain bike unit
• A new Cold Case Unit targets criminal investigations that have not been solved within their first year
• The county also encourages residents to do what they can to fight crime by participating in the growing
Neighborhood Watch Program
Department of Substance Abuse Programs
At the county’s Department of Substance Abuse Programs, there is a wide range of services to reduce alcohol and drug abuse. They include the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Center’s detox facility and aftercare services, addiction treatment programs for current and newly released inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center, the Milagro Program that offers substance abuse aftercare for pregnant and postpartum women, Renee’s Project which provides permanent housing and other supportive services to homeless female addicts with minor children, and an anti-DWI program. The Department of Substance Abuse helped 7,536 people last year.
Bernalillo County Fire & Rescue Department
The Bernalillo County’s Fire & Rescue Department, which was established in 1958, has grown from a single station, volunteer, department to a fully-paid, 12 district agency with 225 firefighters answering more than 12,000 calls a year.
The department recently invested in two state-of-the-art bariatric rescue units designed to transport larger sized patients to hospitals. A third unit will be purchased in 2014. And two new East Mountain fire stations will open next summer.
Animal Care Department
Animal Care is in the process of implementing an equine rescue/therapy program for inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center and a $1.5 million animal adoption center at the Youth Services Center that will be staffed by youths housed there during the day. Animal Care has also begun using certified therapy dogs in the county’s substance abuse programs to improve the recovery and decrease recidivism of the programs’ in-house residents.
Animal Care’s Pro-active Enforcement Team (P.E.T.) project is dedicated to reducing animal cruelty while increasing the prosecution of offenders who mistreat animals. Some research indicates that animal cruelty and child abuse go hand-in-hand. Bernalillo County Animal Care and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office work together to patrol areas where there is a high volume of people reporting suspected animal cruelty.
Graffiti Removal Program
There’s an old expression that says “a picture paints a thousand words,” but when it comes to graffiti, Bernalillo County is doing everything it can to “stop the presses.” The county funds a highly effective and popular graffiti removal program. Experts say graffiti is the most common type of property vandalism and that it can destroy neighborhoods.
When an area is repeatedly hit by graffiti, citizens often feel the area is dangerous and serves as a welcome mat to more serious crime. Last year, there were 2,870 graffiti field calls and 17,577 staff-identified graffiti markings that were cleaned up. The graffiti cleanup crew responds to calls every day of the week--usually within six hours after a call comes in. To report graffiti in Bernalillo County, call 24-ERASE (243-7273).
Community Custody Program
The Metropolitan Detention Center's Community Custody Program (CCP) provides an innovative approach to incarceration. The program provides an opportunity for screened, low-risk inmates to serve their sentences or pre-sentence outside of the jail walls in the community. Inmates in the program are monitored on a daily basis to ensure the public’s safety. Inmates in the CCP program live at home while getting the help they need to overcome challenges that have kept them from being successful productive citizens. This includes getting their GEDs and receiving substance abuse counseling.
All CCP offenders are randomly drug tested twice a week and monitored for alcohol on a daily basis. All CCP offenders are supervised 24/7 via GSP tracking. If offenders violate CCP rules, they will lose their CCP privileges and can be returned to the Metropolitan Detention Center.
CCP offenders are required to participate in community service. The offenders who are part of the “clean team” are often seen throughout Bernalillo County cleaning up and improving the appearance of various sites around town. CCP offenders also work at the Roadrunner Food Bank and other locations learning valuable job skills. CCP officers assist the inmates in the program with exploring and securing employment opportunities.
Nearly 10,000 inmates have participated in CCP since 2007. It costs $17 a day to supervise an offender in the CCP program compared with $52 per inmate per day to incarcerate an offender at MDC.
Neighborhood Association Grant Program
Bernalillo County’s public safety efforts are aided by the county’s Neighborhood Association Grant Program. For example, the Tres Volcanes Neighborhood Association on the Northwest Mesa has sought and received a $200 grant to reduce local crime by putting lights and signs on cars that are used to patrol areas that could otherwise be defaced with graffiti and garbage.
Also, in honor of National County Government Month, Bernalillo County is partnering with Youth Development Incorporated’s Education, Employment and Training Division to give young people a chance to explore public safety careers by riding along with firefighters, deputies and animal care officers for a day. The students will write essays about their experiences that will later be posted on the county’s website, bernco.gov.
To learn more about public safety programs in Bernalillo County during National County Government Month, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, animal care officers, and members of the 24-ERASE team will be at the following public events:
District 4: Eubank Boulevard construction project/Phase 2 ribbon-cutting, Saturday, April 06, 9 a.m.-10 a.m. Eubank & Paseo del Norte.
District 2: Hand-in-Hand event, Saturday, April 20, 10 a.m.-12 noon at Westside Community Center
District 2: South Valley Pride Day Parade/Community Celebration - Sunday, April 21, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Westside Community Center
District 4: A Day in Paradise Community Celebration, Sunday, April 28, 2013, 5801 Paradise Blvd NW
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