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Cambridge announces new civilian safety team to help with non-emergencies like needle pickup

Cambridge announces new safety team to help deal with non-emergencies like needle pickup
Cambridge announces new safety team to help deal with non-emergencies like needle pickup 02:07

CAMBRIDGE - Cambridge is unveiling a new civilian safety team that will help overwhelmed first responders in the city deal with non-emergencies.

The Community Assistance Response and Engagement or CARE team consists of Cambridge neighbors, looking to lend a hand.

 "I think it's a great idea," said Cambridge neighbor, Michele.

The team begins it's first mission this week. They'll be responding to needle pick up calls after weeks of training 

"For years we've been having the fire department respond to needle pick up calls. Someone sees a needle on a sidewalk, they see it in a park, playground and obviously that's a concern. Now we have a community safety team which is an alternative response to fire, police, or EMS" said City of Cambridge spokesperson Jeremy Warnick.

He also said the unarmed civilian team will eventually respond to other non-emergency incidents including mental health calls or calls for service.

"Because they're unarmed that's going to reduce escalation, but something does escalate there's backup for them," said Warnick.

But for now clearing city streets of sharp objects is a top priority and it will allow Cambridge first responders to focus on emergencies.

In 2023 Cambridge Fire, Police and EMS responded to roughly 350 nonemergency 911 calls that will now go directly to the care team, freeing up valuable time for first responders.

"In some cases they're picking up multiple needles at one time so if this will free up 100 responses from the fire department to go do other activities they need to do that's a win for the city," Warnick said.

"It's perfect for resources and much needed," said Cambridge neighbor Michele who is a retired pediatrician. She is nervous that needles in city streets could be a problem for kids.

"Needle sticks in children has always an issue, concerned children will pick up discarded needles. I think it's great, people who are trained to do it safely get it off sidewalks is perfect," says Michele.

So how do you get in touch with the care team if you happen to see a needle nearby? Don't do anything different. 

Neighbors can still call 911 or the non emergency line at 617-349-3300. 911 Dispatchers will let the care team know they're needed.

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