The Albuquerque Journal in a front page above the fold story reported that the greater Albuquerque metro area is now number one in the country per capita for stolen vehicles.
(See June 10, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, Page A-1, “METRO NO. 1 IN STOLEN CARS; 10,00 vehicle thefts-up 50 per cent-in ABQ and neighboring counties in 2016”)
(See also https://www.abqjournal.com/1015730/report-albuquerque-area-worst-in-nation-for-auto-thefts-last-year.html)
Twenty-seven (27) vehicles are stolen a day in the greater Albuquerque area and the three (3) neighboring counties.
More than 10,000 vehicles a year are reported stolen in the greater Albuquerque area and the neighboring three (3) counties.
The increase in auto theft has only gotten worse over the last three (3) years with no end in sight.
From 2014 to 2015, Albuquerque had a 45.6% jump in auto thefts.
In 2015, Albuquerque was number two (2) in vehicle thefts in the United States with 5,179 auto thefts reported.
In 2015, APD had only 4 detectives assigned to investigating auto thefts, which was one detective for every 1,294 vehicles stolen in 2015, with Detectives having upwards of 30 cases opened at any given time.
In 2016, Albuquerque saw a 50% increase in auto thefts over 2015.
In 2016, the four (4) county metro area had 10,011 auto thefts, or 1,114 per 100,000 people, according to new figures from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
When Mayor Berry was asked about Albuquerque being number one (1) in stolen cars in the country, he said in characteristic style with a positive spin: “We’re working closely with the District Attorney and with [APD] to make sure we have the resources to go after repeat offenders and to make sure they have what they need to go where they need to go.”
Eight (8) years ago when Mayor Berry ran for Mayor the first time, he did a commercial about his truck being stolen, it was found totaled and burned out, and he promised to make Albuquerque a “bad place to be a criminal”.
“Making Albuquerque a bad place to be a criminal” is the identical campaign slogan and political rhetoric being espoused by none other than Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis who is now running for Mayor and thinks no one will remind him he is part of our problem at city hall.
Dan Lewis has been on the City Council for the last eight (8) years and he has supported Berry’s policies of mismanagement of APD by failing to hold Berry and his APD command staff accountable.
Dan Lewis is part of the problem when it comes to doing nothing and allowing the increase in crime rates and the mismanagement of the Albuquerque Police Department.
Berry’s disastrous mismanagement of APD along with the lack of oversight leadership by the Albuquerque City Council, including Dan Lewis, has in fact made Albuquerque a good place to steal cars and commit violent and property crimes.
Exactly what has Berry and the Albuquerque City Council been doing the last eight (8) years when it comes to our rising crime rates?
The answer is not much.
Albuquerque being number one in auto thefts is the least of our crime problems and law enforcement problems.
VIOLENT CRIME AND PROPERTY CRIME RATES
Albuquerque has become one of the most violent cities in the country.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in 2015 Albuquerque’s violent crime rates increased by 9.6% and property crime rates increased by 11.7%.
In 2015, there were 34,082 property crimes reflecting a 15% increase.
Murders spiked from 30 in 2014 to 46 in 2015, an increase of 53%!
Albuquerque’s violent and property crime rates have hit a 10 year high.
Since 2010, Albuquerque’s violent and property crime rates dramatically increased by 14% to 20% percent.
DRAMATIC DECLINE IN DWI AND TRAFFIC CASES
The statistics from the Bernalillo County Metro Court are just as alarming as the increases in auto thefts, violent crimes and property crimes.
The statistics from the Bernalillo County Metro Court reveal just how terrible things are with the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) staffing levels.
APD is unable to patrol our streets, get drunks off the road, make DWI arrests and issue traffic citations and prosecute cases.
In 2008, there were 633 felony DWI arraignments and the number steadily declined each year to 104 in 2015.
In 2008, there were 6,538 DWI/DUI misdemeanor arraignments and the number steadily declined each year to 2,942 in 2015.
In 2008, there were 84,527 traffic court arraignments and the number steadily declined each year to 31,163 in 2015.
DWI felony and misdemeanor arrests, arraignments and convictions are down dramatically.
In 2009, there were 746 people arraigned for felony DWI and that number dropped to a mere 104 in 2015.
In 2008, there were 6,538 people arraigned for misdemeanor DWI and in 2015 that number dropped by close to 60% to 2,942.
Between all the reckless and careless drivers and the drunk drivers, the streets of Albuquerque are not safe to drive.
APD STAFFING SHORTAGE
The severe shortage in APD staffing has a direct correlation to increased crime rates and the ability for APD to do community based policing.
Fewer cops also means fewer can actually patrol our streets to enforce our traffic laws and arrest DWI offenders.
In eight (8) years, APD has gone from 1,100 sworn police to 844 all under the watchful eye of Mayor Berry and the Albuquerque City Council pretending they support public safety.
Of the 844 sworn police officers, only 436 are assigned to field services, divided into three working shifts, less any of those on vacation, sick leave or in court.
Albuquerque has six (6) APD area commands
At any given time, there are 124 sworn police officers assigned to the field, divided by three shifts, or 24 officers per field command shift.
Each year, field service officers respond to 69,000 priority one calls, and response times have gone from 8 minutes, 58 seconds in 2009 to close to 15 minutes in 2017, depending on the type of call and how it is dispatched.
Eight (8) years ago, auto thefts, violent crime and property crime rates were declining and response times were at historical lows and below the national average.
From 2010 to 2014, the city council fully funded 1,100 sworn police positions despite the mass exodus of sworn police and the APD Police Academy’s failure to recruit and keep up with retirements.
Three years ago, the City Council voted to reduce funding from 1,100 sworn officers to 1,000 sworn officers because of the Berry Administration’s failure to recruit and keep up with retirements.
The City Council voted for the reduction in staffing and as of today APD employs 844 sworn officers.
In 2015, an APD “personnel needs study” was performed and it was determined that APD needs at least 1,000 sworn police officers to do its job of protecting the city.
A city council by resolution can enact increases in APD personnel and give raises, retention and incentive bonuses and offer sign on bonuses and education pay to help with recruitment.
Notwithstanding the City Councils authority over APD, Albuquerque City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Don Harris, in an effort to help their re-election efforts, declared a law enforce personnel shortage crisis and introduced a charter amendment for voter approval to mandate increasing APD staffing levels to 1,200 sworn police officers.
THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE MANDATED REFORMS
Since 2010, there have been 41 police officer involved shootings and over $61 million dollars paid in taxpayer money for police misconduct cases, excessive use of force cases and deadly force cases.
On April 14, 2014, after a yearlong investigation reviewing sixteen police officer involved shootings, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a scathing report that found a “culture of aggression” within the Albuquerque Police Department.
Because of the DOJ investigation, the DOJ filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Albuquerque and the city entered into a Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating sweeping APD reforms.
The settlement agreement mandates approximately 300 changes in standard operating procedures and policy and training with a federal court appointed monitor and costing millions in taxpayer money to implement the reforms.
The Federal Monitor has issued five (5) reports over three years that have been highly critical of APD command staff.
In his fifth report, Federal Monitor is very critical of APD’s high ranking supervisors and command-level officers, accusing them of “deliberate non-compliance” with the consent decree.
The most damning and disturbing findings made by the federal monitor are that APD “subverted” the reform process by issuing “covert special orders,” denying the existence of the orders, and APD exhibiting a “near total failure” to accept civilian oversight.
The federal monitor lays direct blame on the APD command staff for the “deliberate non-compliance” with the city’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
CITY COUNCIL HAS FAILED IN OVERSIGHT OF APD
The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including controlling its budget.
During the last three (3) years, the City Council has done nothing when it comes to APD reforms.
The City Council has never challenged the APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms.
Each time the Federal Monitor has presented his critical reports of APD to the City Council, the entire City Council has been silent and has declined to demand accountability from the Mayor and have declined to hold the APD command staff responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms.
Not a single City Councilor has ever attended any of the federal court hearings on the consent decree.
WE HAVE BECOME NUMB TO THE HEADLINES
The people of Albuquerque have become so numb to our rising crime rates we accept it as the new norm.
It should not be this way, and we can do better as a community and demand more from our elected officials, especially the Mayor and the Albuquerque City Council.
There has been no outrage to hold Mayor Berry, Chief Gordon Eden nor the Albuquerque City Council accountable for the rising crime rates and what they have done to what was at one time one of the best law enforcement agencies in the country.
Berry and Eden are on their way out in five (5) months and have done nothing in the last three years to address our auto theft, violent crime and property crime rates except blame our judicial system, judges and the New Mexico legislature.
TIME FOR CHANGE
On October 2, 2017, Albuquerque will be electing a new Mayor and five (5) city councilors.
With the approaching October 2, 2017 municipal election, now is the time for voters to start voicing and voting their outrage over what has been happening in Albuquerque when it comes to the rising crime rates and demanding that something be done to make our community safer.
Democrat Albuquerque City Councilors Ken Sanchez, Diane Gibson and Klarissa Pena and Republican Don Harris are up for re-election while Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis is vacating his seat to run for Mayor.
On December 1, 2017, we will be swearing in a new Mayor and hopefully a new APD Chief and it cannot come soon enough so that just maybe things can start to change with APD and people can start feeling safe again.
Come December 1, 2017 when a new Mayor and new city council are sworn in, Mayor Berry, Chief Gordon Eden, along with all incumbent city councilors, “need to go where they need to go” and that is into political obscurity never to be heard from again.