TEMPE — Tempe’s trying a new approach to change the way police interact with our community.
The city isn’t sending only police officers or firefighters to answer every 911 call. The city is sending mental health professionals. ABC15 spoke with the ‘CARE 7’ team.
Loaded and ready, Tempe’s CARE 7 trucks show-up places all over the city.
“You can have 100 [calls] to be explained the same way, but you will roll up to the scene and it will turn out completely different than the other 99,” said CARE 7 Social Worker Sean Green.
Green, along with others who work for CARE 7, join police and fire on all kinds of calls.
“Everybody has their own lens,” added Green.
Sometimes, there is only a need for firefighters to put out a fire or police to help a victim of crime. But, what about things not posing an immediate danger to others?
“Someone has some mental health concern regarding someone, or someone is acting a certain way,” added Green.
That’s where a badge, gun, ladder or firehose doesn’t matter as much.
“We think of them as an extension of the police department. We worked hand in hand with them on various things,” said Tempe Police Detective Natalie Barela.
CARE 7 then takes the lead with a softer approach.
“It really helps to have someone who is there to walk you through the process, support you, listen to you and connect you to resources,” said CARE 7 Coordinator Martha Williams.
The CARE 7 Crisis Response Unit handled more than 1,800 calls last year. The unit’s coordinator told ABC15 more than half, of those calls, came from Tempe police.
CARE 7 responds to 30 kinds of calls.
The five most frequent types, in 2021, were intimate partner/family violence at 294 calls, death/grief at 281 calls, mental health at 268 calls, homeless/shelter at 186 calls and substance abuse at 160 calls.