Sheriff's office takes over hotline answering duties

— Albany County is on track to save more than $3,000 a year with a new cooperative agreement between the sheriff’s department and the Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Abuse Center.

Per the agreement, which was announced by County Executive Dan McCoy on Wednesday, Jan. 17, trained 911 dispatchers will now answer all calls to the Crime Victims and Sexual Abuse Hotline and transfer them to certified rape counselors or other appropriate individuals. Previously, those calls were contracted out to an answering service in New Mexico.

“We are looking for ways to share services and save money without losing the quality of services we provide,” said McCoy in a statement.

Michael Perrin, deputy county executive, said the county was looking to improve services and that if this agreement hadn’t panned out, other options would have been explored to sustain the hotline.

“In this case, we were able to take the service in house where it was certain to be high quality and lower cost,” said Perrin. “Ending the service or hotline was not one of the options that we considered.”

Besides saving the county money and demonstrating a commitment to working together, Director of the County Crime Victim and Sexual Abuse Center Karen Ziegler said the arrangement should cut down on discrepancies and questions that used to arise from using a non-local vendor.

“By having Albany County staff answer our hotline, they’re going to be much more aware of Albany County resources than anybody out of state could possibly be,” said Ziegler, citing instances when dispatchers in New Mexico couldn’t specify which hospital in Albany a victim went to. “Our employees are going to know, very specifically, and have an understanding and knowledge of local resources for callers and for us.”

The 24-hour hotline averages between 100 and 120 calls per quarter and the Crime Victim and Sexual Abuse Center itself provides services unavailable elsewhere.

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