On Friday, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torres presented his written report to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council blaming the New Mexico Supreme Court’s Case Management Order (CMO) for Albuquerque’s increasing crime rates, the higher percentage of cases going to trial and “gamesmanship” by defense attorneys.
It took just two (2) days for the Albuquerque Journal to agree with Torrez and unload on our criminal justice system blaming the courts and the Case Management Order for our increasing crime rates.
The Journal editorial did not hold responsible the Berry Administration, the Albuquerque Police Department nor the District Attorney’s Office as major contributors to our out of control crime rates.
The Albuquerque Journal has adopted President Trump’s, Mayor Berry’s and Chief Gordon Eden’s tactic of blaming our courts with all that is wrong with our criminal justice system.
The Journal essentially used Raul Torrez’ report as a new spear head to provide another assault on our courts that has been undertaken by Mayor Richard Berry, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry and Chief Gordon Eden.
Torrez in his report says the rule’s application has been “arbitrary, unpredictable, and unjust, all at the expense of the State and Public”, arguments strongly disputed by the defense bar and the criminal justice Coordinating Council which helped draft the Case Management Order.
The Case Management Order (CMO) was issued by the New Mexico Supreme Court in February 2015 to eliminate the unacceptable backlog of criminal trials and sets deadlines for criminal prosecutions to ensure speedier trials for defendants and to deal with an overcrowded jail system and the CMO complies with well-established rules of criminal procedure.
By all accounts, the CMO is working and jail crowding is under control.
The CMO was necessitated by the fact that so many defendants were awaiting arraignments or trials and being held in the Bernalillo County Detention Center for months, and at times years, to the point that the jail was becoming severely overcrowded exceeding its capacity of approximately 2,200 inmates.
For decades, the jail has been the subject of a class action federal lawsuit for overcrowding.
The Sunday Albuquerque Journal editorial threw in for good measure colored photographs of Torres and CAO Rob Perry to accompany their bold print editorial headline “Cleanup time” and “Change in court procedure needed to cut case dismissals and stem ABQ’s crime wave”.
Perry was quoted as saying with bravado concern “Almost every night there’s a tragedy in this city, and it has absolutely eaten away at the quality of life, the economic vitality and what it means to live for the future in Albuquerque. I don’t think we have the luxury of getting into technical debates about this. We’ve got some bad hombres out there.”
The Albuquerque Journal editorial also quoted a letter from the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce supporting Torrez’s recommendations which said, “Albuquerque is a special place with many strengths, but it must also be a safe place for businesses and families if we are to compete for jobs.”
TORREZ’S ACTIONS CAN BE EXPLAINED
There should be no surprise with Torrez expressing frustration with rising crime rates seeing as when he ran for District Attorney he said our criminal justice system in Albuquerque is in dire need of change and he was the guy to get it done.
The fact that Torrez has been in office less than six months means he can be afforded some credit for trying to do something and trying to keep his campaign promises.
However, Torres blaming the Case Management Order for the increase in crime rates is “political gamesmanship” in and of itself and obvious effort to avoid being held accountable for his office’s future failures in dealing with our soaring crime rates.
A deficiency that has not been reported by the press is that the District Attorney’s Office is fully funded for 110 prosecutors but the office is down by approximately 10 positions which Torrez is having a tough time filling.
Torrez complains about the CMO order, but he is the one that abolished the grand jury bureau in the District Attorney’s office that screened felony cases for deficiencies and that was responsible for indicting cases for assignment to prosecutors.
The Priority Repeat Offender Program, which prosecuted career criminals to secure enhanced sentences was also disbanded by the District Attorney’s Office.
Soon after Torrez took office, he hired two (2) highly experienced special prosecutors on contract to review the backlog of some 40 plus police officer involved shootings to determine if charges should be brought against officers.
After six months of being paid, the special prosecutors have not announced anything about clearing up the backlog of officer involved shootings or if charges will be brought.
PERRY’S BRAVADO IS POLITICAL GAMESMANSHIP
What is so disgusting is the real gamesmanship of Rob Perry’s and the Chamber of Commerce trying to lay blame on our court’s for Albuquerque’s increased crime rates.
Rob Perry has been around for the last eight (8) years as Berry’s enforcer and right-hand administrator and has played a key role in the mismanagement of APD.
As Chief Administrative Officer, Rob Perry plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including budget oversight.
Perry is the highest paid city employees and paid $198,000 a year base salary.
It was Rob Perry that proclaimed the city conducted a “national search” for a police chief which wounded up with the selection of political operative Gordon Eden who has no prior experience managing a municipal police department.
Rob Perry has done nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms and 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, Rob Perry has been silent, has been nowhere to be found, and has declined to demand accountability from the APD command staff responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms.
For eight (8) years, Perry has done nothing about APD spiraling out of control, the tremendous decline in the number of sworn police officers and our rising crime rates.
FELONY VIOLENT CRIME STATISTICS
According to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) statistics, the total number of violent crimes in Albuquerque dipped two years and then steadily increased as follows:
2010 – 4,291
2011 – 4,207
2012 – 4,151
2013 – 4,323
2014 – 4,934
2015 – 5,409
According to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, from 2009 to 2015, Albuquerque’s violent crime rate increased by 21.5%.
Murders spiked in Albuquerque by over 50% from 30 murders in 2014 to 46 murders in 2015.
According to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics, in the last eight (8) years, Albuquerque has become the is fifth-most violent city in the country on a per capita basis while the nation’s violent crime rate dropped by 13.7%.
FELONY PROPERTY CRIME STATISTICS
Albuquerque has become number one in the nation for auto thefts.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s latest Hot Spots report shows Albuquerque and of Bernalillo County as the worst place in the nation when it comes to auto theft per capita.
In 2016 more than 10,000 vehicles were stolen in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County or more than 27 vehicles a day.
According to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) statistics, the total number of property crimes in Albuquerque has steadily increased each year during the last six (6) years as follows:
2010 – 26,493
2011 – 28,109
2012 – 29,804
2013 – 30,614
2014 – 30,523
2015 – 34,082
In 2015, APD made 9,049 felony arrests, 22,639 misdemeanor arrests, 2,213 DWI arrests, and 2,552 domestic violence arrests.
In 2016, APD made 8,744 felony arrests, 19,857 misdemeanor arrests, 1,070 DWI arrests, and 2,462 domestic violence arrests.
In 2016, field service officers responded to 546,550 calls for service with a priority 1 response time of 11 minutes, 35 seconds which is approximately two minutes over the national standard. (Source: 2017-2018 City of Albuquerque Proposed budget)
FAILURE TO PROSECUTE MISDEMEANOR CASES PART OF CRIME WAIVE
The Bernalillo Count District Attorney Office has a misdemeanor division with approximately 25 Assistant District Attorney’s assigned to the division who are responsible for prosecuting cases that mandate a court record.
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.
In 2010, the APD traffic unit had more than 34 officers and today there are less than 12.
There is a direct correlation with the dramatic decline in the number of DWI arrests and arraignments and traffic arrangement cases and the severe decline in APD personnel.
The silence by the press and anti-DWI advocates is deafening given the serious drop in DWI arraignments and convictions, as is the silence from the District Attorney.
APD SWORN POLICE DEFICIENCY
Eight (8) years ago, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was the best trained, best equipped, best funded department in its history and fully staffed with 1,100 sworn police officers.
In 2010 , APD response times had been brought down below the national average and crime rates were hitting historical lows.
In eight (8) years, APD went from 1,100 sworn police to 853 sworn police all under the watchful eye of Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry and Mayor Berry.
From 2010 to 2014, the city council fully funded 1,100 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
In 2017, response times are at historical highs with calls to APD taking hours instead of minutes to respond threatening public safety.
In 2017, APD is funded for 1,000 sworn officers but has only 853 sworn police officers.
In 2016, field service officers responded to 546,550 calls for service with a priority 1 response time of 11 minutes, 35 seconds which is approximately two minutes over the national standard.
Of the 853 sworn police 436 are assigned to field services, resulting in 417 sworn police officers assigned to the various specialized felony units and command staff.
Given the volume of felony arrest and cases, APD is severely understaffed to complete felony investigations.
A December 11, 2015 Albuquerque Police Department Comprehensive Staffing Assessment and Resource Study concluded that APD needs at least 1,000 sworn officers.
THE DA’S OFFICE CANNOT PROSECUTE WITHOUT A COMPLETED CASE
A successful criminal felony prosecution by the District Attorney is only as good as the weakest link in the criminal investigation.
When it comes to felony prosecutions, final law enforcement reports, called supplemental offense reports, are prepared containing a narrative of the case, the investigation of the facts of the case, witness statements, an inventory of all the evidence gathered, forensic reports and anything related and needed for a prosecution, and only when the case is complete should it be turned over to the District Attorney,
When the Bernalillo County District Attorney brings charges either by criminal complaint or felony indictment by grand jury, there should be little need for extensive follow up and gathering of evidence.
If the criminal investigation or the evidence gathering has not been completed by law enforcement, then its law enforcement that must complete their work and not leave the work to the District Attorney.
Once a case is charged, if law enforcement has done its job properly investigating a case, the District Attorney should not have any problem adhering to discovery demands and deadlines of the CMO.
APD is so short staffed that the felony divisions including the violent crimes, property crimes and narcotics divisions, cannot keep up with the caseloads and finish the cases and submit completed supplemental offense reports, including the required evidence gathering to the District Attorney.
The best example of APD’s sworn personnel crisis is the auto theft unit which has only 4 detectives each having over 1,000 open cases, yet Albuquerque is number one in the nation per capita for auto theft.
Other examples of the sworn personnel crisis include the fact that APD no longer assigns a liaison officer to the District Attorney’s office to follow up with retrieving discovery to turn over to defense counsel and APD no longer transcribes interviews they take and forces the DA offices to do it.
The truth is Albuquerque’s severe rising crime rates have been in the making for the last eight (8) years.
Albuquerque’s increasing crime rates have very little to do with the Supermen Court’s Case Management Order implemented in 2015 and the yearly statistics bear this out.
Albuquerque’s increasing crimes rates have a lot to do with the fact that APD is so severely understaffed it cannot complete felony investigations and get the cases over to the District Attorney for successful prosecution.