Community Responders for Equity, Safety & Service

Service Notice: The CRESS Department offices will be closing at 2:00PM Friday (12/1/2023) due to the Merry Maple event downtown from 3:00PM-6:00PM. The department will also be operating under reduced capacity on Saturday (12/2/2023) from 9:00AM to 1:00PM due to assisting ARHS in facilitating a community service alternative to out of school suspension. If you are experiencing an emergency, please dial 911. If you are experiencing a psychiatric emergency, please call 413.586.5555. CRESS will return to normal hours Monday (12/4/2023) at 8:00am.

Interested in working for the CRESS Department? We're hiring! Follow the links below for more information.

CRESS Director

CRESS Responder

CRESS Leadership Update 

On September 19, 2023 the Interim Leadership team consisting of Fire Department Chief Tim Nelson, Sgt. Janet Griffin of the Amherst Police Department, Kat Newman CRESS Implementation Manager, and Pamela Nolan Young Director of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Office assumed leadership of the Community Responders for Equity Safety and Service Department (CRESS).  The purpose of the leadership team is to provide temporary support and guidance to the CRESS Department in the absence of a permanent director.


The reason for creating the Community Responders for Equity, Safety & Service (CRESS) department is to provide community safety services in situations that don’t involve violence or serious crime.  It will create a civilian, unarmed alternative to calls that might otherwise require a response from the Police Department.

The purpose is to ensure that any public safety response is anti-racist, equitable, just, and fair and that we offer preventative services that get at the root of assisting our community members to avoid necessitating public safety involvement in the first place. 

Team photo of the Community Responders outside of the Bangs Community Center

Amherst Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service Mission Statement

Amherst Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service (CRESS) is an unarmed, person centered, trauma informed, antiracist Public Safety agency. Unarmed should not be taken to mean unprepared, untrained or afraid. We exist in a community that has, historically, shown an ability to have challenging conversations and to hold the highest ideals of a Commonwealth. A shared responsibility to our neighbors. The many inviting the few to sit at the table. 20 black men, joined by other men in our community marched off to fight in the Civil War. We stand on their shoulders.

Using the lessons of our community and the communities around us, CRESS will be rooted in a transparent set of values. These are not ordered by importance. They all must be held for our work to succeed.

1: An overarching sense of optimism. We believe that people do not need to earn our hope. Everyone, without exception, is worthy of respect, compassion and redemption. No human being is disposable. No person who knocks on our door will be rejected, regardless of complexity. We believe in Amherst. We believe that all people possess the ability to recover from what ails them, to build a life that they would like to live and to not be defined by their hardest moments.

2: Trauma Informed Care. We do not pretend to know what everyone has experienced. We do know that trauma is pervasive in our country, from the scourge of racism, to the challenges experienced by LGBTQ folks for being their full selves, to the deeply wounding effects of poverty. CRESS will approach everyone with a lens of how trauma may play a role in our engagement and a sensitivity for that. In practice, this may look like spending additional time to allow someone to find the words, proactive engagement to build tangible trust, to sharing our own stories to fight loneliness. We are not the things that have happened to us and trauma knows no barriers.

3: Antiracism. We recognize that it is not enough to merely call out racism. We must actively oppose it in our institutions, on our streets and in our hearts. The tolls of chattel slavery, Jim Crow and structural slavery harm us all. Diversity isn’t just our strength, it is our desire. A community that is only safe for some of us, is safe for none of us. This value will guide what, how and where we do our work. We will work to prioritize communities that have been historically harmed and that starts with not speaking for them. CRESS will have a 0 tolerance policy for racism from our team. We will also seek to not overserve communities of color, avoiding replicating failures of the past.

4: Being unarmed.  Our agency exists because of a desire to have an unarmed team and this is much deeper than a decision to not carry a weapon. This value is one of noncoercion. Our engagements must be consensual and rooted in a shared commitment to moving through challenges. No responder will use resources, threats or any other coercive practice to work with a person. There can be no shortcuts. Our work is relationship and that must rule our decision making.

5: Person centered. Everyone deserves to be in the driver’s seat of their life. CRESS will work with people to develop skills and understanding for advocacy. We recognize that we must not allow a desire to help to remove someone from making their own decisions. We will partner, use Motivational Interviewing and patience to keep folks in control of their own lives. This also extends to family centered supports for young people. We work in the service of peoples existing support structures and if conflict occurs, we will prioritize the voice of the person we support.

6: Collaboration. CRESS builds bridges for the people in our community. We will maintain respectful and open communication with our sister agencies, as well as any other that serves our community. There may be times where we disagree with an agency. We believe that change happens in proximity and if we believe an agency should shift practices, this is a reason to collaborate more closely. Collaboration should serve the Town and we will join any process that we believe furthers that goal.

These values are foundational. You should expect to see them reflected in every engagement. We will not be perfect, our humanity is our strength. We expect that there will be time for us to celebrate the future we are building together. There will also be losses to mourn, changes to make and tears to shed. CRESS will be here for all of that. 

Our values can be distilled in one sentence: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

― Aesop