Blighted Properties Threaten Public Safety

On March 24, 2018, Channel 4 did a report saying that the newly approved gross receipts tax hike could help address the numerus run down properties, or substandard propertied unfit to live in, that are a plague on the city. Tax hike could help take care of run down-properties/4840085/?cat=500

On Monday, March 5, 2018, the Albuquerque City Council voted to raise the city’s gross receipts tax rate by three-eighths (3/8) of a percentage point to deal with a $40 million project deficit for fiscal year that commences July 1, 2018.

The gross receipts tax increase of 3/8th of a cent has no sunset clause and could potentially raise an additional $30 to $40 million in revenues this year when it goes into effect July 1, 2018 and upwards of $55 million each year thereafter.

On Thursday, March 15, 2018, Mayor Tim Keller signed the $55 million a year tax increase enacted by the city council.

The tax is dedicated to primarily public safety.

In addition to being eyesores to neighborhoods and bringing down property values, properties that are vacant and run down can also be “attractive nuisances” which is where a landowner may be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on the land if the injury is caused by an object on the land that is likely to attract children.

EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM

The blighted and substandard structures where the city has taken code enforcement action are easy to spot by the windows and doors that are boarded up, and bright red and yellow signs are posted on their doors.

Many substandard properties become magnets for crime creating a danger to families and children.

According to the city, in 2016 alone more than 1,300 vacant homes were added to the City of Albuquerque’s Vacant Building Registry.

In 2017, over 500 vacant homes were added to the city’s registry which does not t include vacant homes that exist within the city that are not on the city’s list.

A conservative estimate is that there are about 3,000 vacant homes and not including vacant commercial buildings.

SAFE CITY STRIKE FORCE REMAINS THE SOLUTION

In 2002, the Safe City Strike Force was formed to combat blighted commercial and residential properties.

Thirty (30) to forty-five (40) representatives from the Albuquerque Police Department, the Albuquerque Fire Department, the Fire Marshal’s Office, the Planning Department Code residential and commercial code inspectors, Family Community Services and the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office participated comprised the strike force.

Seventy (70) to one hundred fifty (150) properties a week, both residential and commercial properties would be reviewed by the Strike Force.

The Safe City Strike Force would handle referrals from the general public, neighborhood associations, the Mayor and the Albuquerque City Council.

The Albuquerque City Council would be given weekly updates on the progress made in their districts on the nuisance properties found.

The Safe City Strike Force routinely prepared condemnation resolutions for enactment by the Albuquerque City Council to tear down substandard buildings.

I estimate in the 8 years I was Director of the Strike Force we took civil enforcement action against some 6,500 properties, both commercial and residential.

The Code Enforcement Division of the Planning Department secured $25,000 in federal grant funding for the Safe City Strike Force its first year of its existence for tear downs of blighted properties.

By the seventh year, the Code Enforcement Division of the Planning Department secured $1 million a year in funding for board ups and teardowns by the Safe City Strike Force.

NO EXCUSE FOR BLIGHTED, SLUMLORD PROPERTIES

Albuquerque and the commercial real estate sector may be on hard economic times, but that does not mean commercial property owners and landlords can just turn their backs on making repairs and do nothing to maintain their properties.

Not being able to afford to make repairs is not a good excuse when it comes to substandard commercial and residential buildings.

If commercial and residential rental property owners cannot afford to make repairs and keep maintenance up, then they need to sell their properties to someone who can.

Nuisance and blighted properties bring down property values and can endanger an entire neighborhood when the property becomes a magnet for crime, especially when used for a crack house or meth lab.

A magnet for crime property is one that has an extensive history of calls for service to the Albuquerque Police Department and where crime occurs.

A review of the total number of calls for service a year is used in part to determine if a property is a public nuisance or a nuisance under city ordinances.

Residential rental landlords and motel owners need to provide housing that is safe, secure and livable for all tenants.

Tenants are legally entitled to safe, secure, clean, living quarters with working utilities when they pay their rent.

As director of the Safe City Strike Force, I saw way too many slumlords charging top dollar to rent their properties to some of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

Many slumlords refuse to make repairs when needed, even when the health and safety of tenants are at risk.

Slumlords have the financial upper hand with their tenants and have the attitude with their tenants that if you do not like what I am renting to you, then get the hell out.

Undocumented or non-United State citizens are also reluctant to complain to slumlords for repairs or the police because of fear of eviction or deportation.

Slumlords are also quick to evict when there is a missed monthly rental payment.

Some of the more egregious instances where property owners refused to make costly repairs and where health and safety was an issue involved heating and air condition systems that broke down during peak usage times.

The City of Albuquerque can have an impact and reduce the number of blighted and substandard commercial and residential properties in Albuquerque by relying on existing nuisance abatement state law and city ordinances.

New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque have some of the strongest nuisance abatement laws in the country and enforcement action can be taken by the city.

NEW MEXICO LAW

New Mexico law states: “A public nuisance consist of knowingly creating, performing or maintaining anything affecting any number of citizens without lawful authority which is injurious to public health, safety and welfare or interferes with the exercise and enjoyment of public rights, including the right to use public property.” (See 30-8-1, NMSA, defining public nuisance.)

Under New Mexico law, civil actions for the abatement of a public nuisance can be taken in the form of seeking injunctive relief to secure temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions and permanent injunctions to abate the nuisance.

A civil action to abate a public nuisance may be brought by any public officer or private citizen in state district court against any person, corporation or association of persons who creates, performs or maintains a public nuisance. (See 30-8-8, NMSA, abatement of a public nuisance.)

New Mexico law empowers all cities in New Mexico by city ordinance to define a nuisance, abate a nuisance and impose penalties upon a person who creates or allows a nuisance to exist. (See 3-18-17, NMSA Nuisances and Offenses; Regulation or Prohibition)

CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE ORDINANCES

A City of Albuquerque ordinance defines a nuisance property as “any parcel of real property, commercial or residential, on which …illegal activities occurs, or which is used to commit conduct, promote, facilitate, or aide the commission of … any … [crimes or housing code violations].” (See 11-1-1-3, city ordinance defining Public Nuisance)

The nuisance abatement ordinance lists misdemeanor and felony statutes and housing and commercial codes.

Albuquerque’s Nuisance Abatement Ordinance states: “It shall be unlawful for any owner, manager, tenant, lessee, occupant, or other person having any legal or equitable interest or right of possession in real property … or other personal property to intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently commit, conduct , promote, facilitate, permit, fail to prevent, or otherwise let happen, any public nuisance in, on or using any property in which they hold any legal or equitable interest or right of possession.” (See 11-1-1-10, Public Nuisance Prohibited)

The City’s Uniform Housing Code defines a nuisance in part as “Any nuisance known at common law …” or “whatever is dangerous to human life or is detrimental to health, as determined by the health officer” or “any violation of the housing standards” required by the building and housing codes. (See 14-3-1-4, ROA 1994, Housing Code defining Nuisance).

In 2004 the city enacted the Vacant Building Maintenance Act which requires property owners to register their vacant buildings, repair them and keep them maintained.

Albuquerque’s housing and commercial codes define substandard structures and there are provisions that allow inspections and civil code enforcement actions.

Under existing city ordinances, property owners can be cited for code violations for not maintaining their properties in compliance with city codes.

Under the nuisance abatement ordinance, aggressive code enforcement action against blighted properties, both residential and commercial, can be taken where it is found that that the properties have become a nuisance and magnets of crime resulting in calls for service to the Albuquerque Police Department.

CITY COUNCIL CAN FUND

For the last eight years, little to nothing has been done by the City of Albuquerque to address blighted and substandard commercial and residential properties in Albuquerque.

There has been a lack of commitment by city hall to properly fund a program that was recognized as a best practice by municipalities throughout the country.

Albuquerque was safer and cleaner because of the work of the Safe City Strike Force.

Today, the Safe City Strike Force has one employee, its director, and the Safe City Strike Force largely exists in name only.

Existing code enforcement resources are already in place in the City Planning Department and the City Attorney’s office.

CONCLUSION

With enactment of the public safety tax, City Councilors can allocate sufficient funds to address the teardown of blighted and substandard properties.

At least $1 million needs to be allocated for condemnations and tear downs of substandard buildings by the Safe City Strike Force.

Can’t Lead Or Don’t Want the Heat, Issue A News Release!

Words, appearances, promises and actions matter when you are a candidate for office and even more important after a person becomes an elected official.

Just as important are the words and actions of high ranking appointee’s who are suppose to know what is going on and who are ultimately responsible for the actions of subordinates.

Words, appearances and actions also matter for public information officers (PIOs) tasked with getting the message out for any Mayor’s Administration.

Candidates for Mayor all too often boldly claim and make the commitment to be transparent, but after getting elected, transparency is quickly abandoned or is the first casualty of intense press coverage.

Being transparent does not mean you look one way and then the other to make sure no one is looking so you can do something you promised not to do, which is called being sneaky.

Signs of when an elected official does not want the press to know, nor the public to know, what they are doing is when there are no press conferences, no fanfare, and no one looking on to attend and report.

A press release is a clear message of what is important to any Mayor’s administration and what it wants the press to report on.

When it comes to the Keller Administration, announcing the banning of coyote contest hunts in Albuquerque was far more important than announcing the signing of a $55 million dollar a year tax increase by the Mayor.

Another sign of when an administration does not want the press nor public to know what is going on is when a news release is issued on a Friday afternoon so as to reduce news coverage.

News releases also give the advantage of not having to explain the rational nor reason for a decision and with no questions asked by the media nor public.

Another sign that an administration does not want the press or public to know what is going on elsewhere is when a Mayor holds a “limited press conference”, makes an opening statement and then limits questions strictly to the one topic the press conference was called for and allows only one question per reporter with no follow up questions allowed.

The “limited press conference” approach was adopted by the Berry Administration and apparently has been adopted by the Keller Administration according to those who have attended Keller press conferences.

Issuing news releases is no substitute for leadership.

Truth, accuracy and clarity need to be consistent by both the elected official, their high-ranking appointments, as well as their public information officers.

In politics, when you do not want to lead and do not want to take the heat, you issue a news release to dodge the press.

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM TWO MURDERS:

Fast rewind to the Berry Administration:

THE JAMES BOYD KILLING

Approximately three years ago, the very day after homeless camper James Boyd was shot and killed in the Sandia Mountain foothills by APD SWAT Team members, then Chief of Police Gordon Eden held a press conference and declared that the killing was “justified”.

Eden was forced to backtrack big time on the comment within days of his pronouncement.

It is highly likely Eden’s “justified” pronouncement was approved and screened by then Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry seeing as that Perry attended the Eden press conference.

For a full week after the Boyd killing, then Mayor Richard Berry was nowhere to be found, made no statement and held no press conference on the killing.

When Berry finally came out of the shadows to comment on the Boyd shooting, he proclaimed the shooting “a game changer” but refused to disclose his out of state whereabouts and what he was doing, this coming from a Mayor who pledge transparency by his administration.

A year and a half later, the two SWAT police officers that were found to have shot and killed James Boyd were charged with murder.

After a two-week long trial, the jury dead locked with no acquittal, and the charges were eventually dismissed by the newly elected District Attorney Raul Torrez.

Absolutely nothing was heard from Eden or Berry on the dismissal of the charges.

Prior to the criminal trial of the former SWAT police officers, the City of Albuquerque settled behind closed doors the wrongful death action filed by the James Boyd family paying $5 million dollars in taxpayer money, without admitting lability, thereby discrediting that the shooting was “justified” as proclaimed by Chief Gordon Eden.

There was no transparency by the Berry Administration on why or how the $5 million Boyd civil rights settlement was arrived at.

The settlement was announced by a news release and said the city settled the case to avoid a trial that was not in the best interest of the taxpayers and that a trial would have resulted in far greater damages.

THE VICTORIA MATENS KILLING

A mere seven months ago, in June of 2017, two of APD’s public information officers (PIO’s) were caught providing false and misleading information in a number of interviews to the news media and to the public about the Albuquerque Police Departments contact with nine (9) year old Victoria Martin and her family prior to the child’s brutal murder.

Victoria Martens was the nine (9) year old child that was drugged, raped, murdered, mutilated, dismembered and burned allegedly by her mother, her mother’s boyfriend and his cousin in one of the most heinous crimes to have ever occurred in Albuquerque.

What the PIO’s told the news media was that APD detectives went out and interviewed nine (9) year old Victoria Martin weeks before her death and her family after receiving a referral from the State’s Child Protective Services.

The PIO’s said the detectives did not find any evidence of child abuse or sexual abuse of Victoria Marten.

It turns out, contrary to what the PIOs said, APD Detectives were never dispatched, never interviewed the child nor her family and made false statements to mislead the media and the public.

A complaint was filed by a private citizen with the Police Oversight Board, and after the investigation, it was revealed that then Chief of Police Gordon Eden was never interviewed even though he had talked to the PIO’s on the Marten case and was aware of the press contacts.

A NEWS RELEASE ON FIVE HOMICIDES

Fast forward to the Tim Keller Administration.

Last week, it was reported that five (5) murders had occurred in six days.

The spike in murders was given front page coverage by the Albuquerque Journal as well as being the lead story by all the TV news stations.

The most recent murder was reported on March 21, 2018 when the dead body of a man was found around 11:00 am at the Econo Lodge located at Coors Boulevard and Iliff Road.

According to reports, an employee of the motel entered a room at the motel to clean it and found the slain victim.

APD Public Information Officer Simon Drobik would not disclose detailed facts on how the man died but did say there was enough evidence to conclude it was a homicide because of the condition of the room and the way the body was discovered.

Drobik stated that the five homicides in six days placed a severe strain on the department and took resources away from other police work and other violent crime calls for service throughout the city.

On March 21, 2018, APD spokesman Simon Drobik was interviewed and he told the media:

“We don’t know what’s going on. I’m not sure why people are committing violence against each other. It’s very unsettling.”
“We’re strapped. We’re working really, really hard to solve these crimes. … We’re trying to keep the public safe, but we recognize that people continue to be violent toward each other and we can’t run an operation to stop that.”
“We are asking the public to calm down.”

It was Drobik’s comments that were unsettling and far from reassuring going way too far for any APD public information officer.

It is the Mayor or the Chief of Police that should have provided information of what is happening to APD and making assurances of what was going on, but instead, a press release was issued the next day by the Mayor.

On March 22, 2018, the Mayor’s office issued a press release entitled “Mayor Keller Addressing Crime Head-On” in apparent response to the five murders.

The press release was issued by the Mayor’s Public Information Office Gilbert Gallegos supposedly quoting Mayor Keller as follows:

“Like families throughout Albuquerque, I am disheartened by the recent spike in violence in the city we love. We are focusing city priorities to help make the public safer. We restructured APD to get more officers and resources on the streets in your neighborhoods and are working with the community to better fight crime. As we work to turn trends around, our city’s recent violent confrontations have involved gun violence, drug trafficking and gang activity, and domestic violence that too often turns deadly. APD currently has nine homicide detectives and we are adding two more. We are also providing additional resources to help with the extra workload and address unsolved homicides.”

Mayor Keller’s press release continued:

“I want to thank our officers who are on the frontlines fighting and investigating crime every day. We are working to get you back-up by hiring more officers and getting you the resources, you need. The council and the city are drafting the budget this spring and these investments will take time. Right now, we need everyone to come together with our neighborhood leaders, business-owners and faith-based organizations to take our city back. If you have any information about crime in your area, please call Crime stoppers at 505-843-STOP.”

It is not “addressing crime head on” when five murders and the names of the victims were not even mentioned by the Mayor in the press release, let alone no offering condolences to the victims families.

The press release is very short on specifics and very long on public relations.

It is commendable that Mayor Keller is “disheartened by the recent spike in violence in the city we love”.

There is nothing recent about our spike in violent crime.

Keller campaigned on the crime issue to get elected, and it has been going on for at least four years.

I am sure the rank and file police officers appreciated the obligatory “thank you” from the Mayor for being “on the frontlines fighting and investigating crime every day” and saying “we are working to get you back-up by hiring more officers and getting you the resources you need”.

The sworn officers probably appreciate being thanked by the Mayor for doing their jobs but that does not solve the problem of officer shortages.

Sworn police officers are more interested in being told what is being done to help them now, as opposed to being thanked for doing their jobs, seeing they have heard the same type of “thank you” and damn promises before from the previous administration.

The last quote of the press release is slightly embarrassing when it says “If you have any information about crime in your area, please call Crime stoppers at 505-843-STOP”.

Making a phone call is not going to matter much to the one who is dead.

The Mayor and the police Chief showed leadership appearing at a press conference on March 21, 2018, to announced that the Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police were joining forces to address the city’s and the county’s out of control auto theft rates

The Mayor and the APD Chief should address our violent crime rates and murder rates the same way as they did with cars thefts and that would have been real leadership.

NEWS RELEASE ON BANNING COYOTE-KILLING CONSTEST VERSUS NOTHING ON A TAX INCREASE

During the 2018 Mayor’s race, mayoral candidate Tim Keller made the repeated promise that his Administration would be transparent and would not raises taxes, even for public safety, without voter approval.

Candidate Keller making the promise of not raising taxes without a public vote was at best idealistic and at worse being foolish just to garner votes to get elected.

On Monday, March 5, 2018, the Albuquerque City Council voted to raise the city’s gross receipts tax rate by three-eighths (3/8) of a percentage point to deal with a $40 million project deficit for fiscal year that commences July 1, 2018.

The gross receipts tax increase of 3/8th of a cent could potentially raise an additional $30 to $40 million in revenues this year when it goes into effect July 1, 2018 and upwards of $55 million each year thereafter with no sunset clause.

On Thursday, March 15, 2018, according to the city council web site, Mayor Tim Keller signed the $55 million a year tax increase enacted by the city council tax.

Mayor Keller signed the $55 million a year tax increase with no press conference, no fanfare, and no one looking on with no immediate news release.

To date, the Keller administration has yet to post any news release on the city web site that Mayor Keller has signed the tax increase and did not veto it.

At the same time as signing the $55 million tax increase bill, Mayor Tim Keller signed a city council resolution condemning animal abuse in the form of coyote-killing contests within the city.

The news release regarding the banning of “coyote hunt contests” quotes Mayor Keller as saying:

“We are taking a stand in Albuquerque to oppose gratuitous coyote-killing contests. … Cherishing the outdoors and treating animals humanely are core values of our city. Coyote-killing contests defy the principles of conservation and wildlife management that will allow us to continue enjoying our mountains, rivers and wildlife for generations to come.”

The Keller administration should have issued a news release to explain why he signed off on a tax increase that affects virtually every purchase of consumer products and how that money will be used.

On Monday, March 19, 2018, the ABQ Reports (Dennis Domrzalski) reported that the tax increase bill had been signed by Mayor Keller.

The ABQ Reports was able to do so only after reviewing the City Council’s web site to determine if the bill had been signed or vetoed.

The way ABQ Reports reported the news was that Keller had broken his campaign promise to put all tax increase proposals to city voters by signing the ordinance to raise the gross receipts tax in the city by three-eights-of-a-cent.

On Saturday, March 24, 2018, the Albuquerque Journal, citing an email statement from the Mayor’s Office, and not a news release, finally reported that the tax increase had been signed by Mayor Keller.

It is probable that an email was sent only to the Journal on Friday, March 23, 2018, an no news release was issued in order to avoid excessive press coverage, especially by all the TV stations.

In the emailed statement on the signing of the tax increase, Keller spokeswoman Alicia Manzano wrote as follows:

“The decision was made for the City when Council passed a veto-proof and nearly unanimous bipartisan vote to help give our first responders the resources required to keep our streets safe and protect our kids. … [The City Council] were faced with a choice to own up to the financial realities of the deficit now or kick the can further down the road. … We preferred that this would have gone to the voters but we respect the City Council’s decision. … We are prioritizing public safety in the upcoming budget that is underway. We look forward to working together to move our city forward.”

Given the wording of the press release of “a veto-proof and nearly unanimous bipartisan vote” and the reference to the Mayor’s preference for a public vote, the press release indicates the real reason for a full nine-day delay in announcing that Mayor Keller was not vetoing the tax increase.

The nine-day delay reflects the Keller Administration declined to be transparent and to clearly acknowledge that Mayor Keller went back on his campaign to promise not raise taxes, even for public safety, without voter approval, in order to contain the political damage.

Too bad. The press release was a missed opportunity for Keller to announce his reasons and justifications for supporting the tax increase.

There are many very good reasons for Keller to have gone back on his promise, including the $40 million deficit, the need to hire 350 more sworn police the upgrading the 911 emergency operations center not to mention finding the funding to complete the ART Bus project.

Mayor Keller could have used the opportunity to talk about his plans for APD and the $88 million to be used to expand APD.

Keller should have appeared before city council to announce his decision not to veto the tax increase.

Keller could have even signed the tax increase bill in front of the city council and allowed himself to be asked questions by both the City Council and the public and his administration’s plans to use the new monies generated by the tax.

Some of Keller’s harshest critics are already appearing before the city council and he could have addressed them head on like his administration claims they are doing with violent crime.

CONCLUSION

High crime rates, public safety and the Albuquerque Police Department were the single biggest issues debated in the 2017 Mayor’s race.

Tim Keller was elected Mayor with a 62% landslide sending the clear message that voters were seeking aggressive and strong leadership that was a complete departure from the failed leadership and policies of the last eight years.

The Keller Administration is still very young and very green with both Mayor Tim Keller and Interim Chief of Police Michael Geier on the job less than 4 months commencing December 1, 2017.

Mayor Keller made the campaign promise to be transparent and he should be just that with his actions, and news releases even if its reversing promises made.

By all accounts, Mayor Keller has done a good job thus far with many of his appointments as well as the progress made and his commitment to the Department of Justice reforms and reforming APD.

I have high hopes for the new administration, but the Keller Administration need to get their message in order and not repeat the mistakes of the past administration, especially when it comes to transparency and taking responsibility for actions.

It is a very good sign that Mayor Keller has hired a seasoned news assignment editor from a local TV station who has 20+ years in the industry and who understands the news industry.

The goal should always be telling the truth and getting your facts and story straight, especially with the news media.

It will take time to turn things around for APD as well as our economy, but that will only happen with true leadership and not governance by press release to avoid controversy and to avoid taking political heat.

Otherwise, all we will be getting is a Democrat version of the same failed Republican leadership we had for the last eight (8) years.

The only difference may be far more photo ops with a photogenic mayor attending or participating in athletic exhibition games to relive high school glory days, ribbon cuttings and social events as our crime rates continue to soar, people continue to getting killed with no real leadership solving our problems.

ABQ Reports: APD Has No Data On Claim Cops Leaving Due to Pay

APD Brass Has No Data to Back Up Claim that Officers Are Leaving Due to Pay
March 23, 2018

By Charles Arasim and Dennis Domrzalski

The mantra at City Hall these days is that Albuquerque police officers are quitting in droves because they can make more money at other departments and that the city has to throw tens of millions of dollars at the problem.

And Mayor Tim Keller and the City Council are going to do just that with the $55 million-year tax increase that was just approved by the Council and signed by Keller.

But on Thursday it was revealed that the city has no idea why cops are leaving APD and whether salaries are even an issue.

Why?

Because APD doesn’t do exit interviews with departing officers to ask them why they left the department. And now, the department is asking the Police Oversight Board to step in and write it a policy so it can do those exit interviews.

Why the POB?

Apparently because the city’s Human Resources Department is so bureaucratic that it can’t come up with a policy to conduct exit interviews.

That’s what was revealed Thursday at a meeting of the POB’s Policy and Procedure Review Subcommittee. Ed Harness, executive director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, told POB members during the meeting that he had been approached by APD’s recruiting person, Officer Russell Alberti, about having the POB write APD an exit interview policy.

Watch the video of the meeting here.

“I was contacted by APD recruiting today, and they would like the Police and Procedures Subcommittee to consider two actions, one of them long term, one of them short term,” Harness told subcommittee members. “The short term is they would like a policy recommendation on exit interviews for officers that are leaving and have left the department so that they have real data on why they’re leaving as opposed to the speculation that it’s only the pay.”

Harness continued:

“The discussion came about because the presentation to the public is, you know, that, you know, they netted what, three over the last year .. they netted three officers with graduating over a hundred, and the presentation is that it’s all about pay why the officers are leaving. But they have no data to back that up, they don’t do an exit interview, they don’t contact the officers to say ‘Why are you leaving? Why are you going to this other department?’ We’re just assuming because it’s a larger paycheck there. So this is something that the committee could decide and make a recommendation … do exit interviews, set a timeline.”

At that point, POB member Chelsea N. Van Deventer asked Harness: “ Although I’m curious as to why, why can’t they just decide to just do that? Why do they need us to make a recommendation?”

Harness responded: “Because they don’t want to wait for the bureaucracy of HR, the city. This is a much more direct way to get it to a decision maker.”

APD officials weren’t immediately available for comment on Harness’ remarks.

But, in a way, the city does know why officers have been leaving APD, which has been chronically understaffed for years.

In 2015, the City Council approved a survey of APD officers who had left or retired from the department. The survey found that the primary reasons that officers were leaving was a lack of support from city officials and concerns about the leadership within the department.

Dissatisfaction with APD’s pay scale ranked sixth out of 17 reasons of why officers left the department.

https://www.abqreport.com/single-post/2018/03/23/APD-Brass-Has-No-Data-to-Back-Up-Claim-that-Officers-Are-Leaving-Due-to-Pay

A Public Relations Press Release Is Not Leadership

Below is the press release issued on March 22, 2018 at 5:30 pm by Mayor’s Keller’s spokesman the day after the 5th murder in six days with commentary.

From: “Gallegos, Gilbert Jr.”
Date: March 22, 2018 at 5:20:31 PM MDT
Subject: RELEASE- Mayor Keller Addressing Crime Head-On

ALBUQUERQUE — Mayor Tim Keller released the following statement regarding recent violence in Albuquerque:

“Like families throughout Albuquerque, I am disheartened by the recent spike in violence in the city we love. We are focusing city priorities to help make the public safer. We restructured APD to get more officers and resources on the streets in your neighborhoods and are working with the community to better fight crime. As we work to turn trends around, our city’s recent violent confrontations have involved gun violence, drug trafficking and gang activity, and domestic violence that too often turns deadly. APD currently has nine homicide detectives and we are adding two more. We are also providing additional resources to help with the extra workload and address unsolved homicides.

“I want to thank our officers who are on the frontlines fighting and investigating crime every day. We are working to get you back-up by hiring more officers and getting you the resources you need. The council and the city are drafting the budget this spring and these investments will take time. Right now we need everyone to come together with our neighborhood leaders, business-owners and faith-based organizations to take our city back. If you have any information about crime in your area, please call Crimestoppers at 505-843-STOP.

COMMENTARY

The press release was issued apparently in response to the five (5) murders that have occurred in six days and that was given front page coverage by the Albuquerque Journal as well as the lead story by the TV news stations.

It is very disappointing the murders were not even mentioned in the press release.

The press release is very short on specifics and very long on public relations.

The media from what I can tell did not even bother to report on the press release.

It is commendable that Mayor Keller is “disheartened by the recent spike in violence in the city we love” but there is nothing recent about our spike in violent crime.

I am sure the rank and file police officers appreciated the obligatory “thank you” for being “on the frontlines fighting and investigating crime every day” and saying “we are working to get you back-up by hiring more officers and getting you the resources you need”.

However, I suspect the rank and file are more interested in knowing what is being done now and they have heard the same damn thing before from the previous administration.

What is somewhat embarrassing is the last sentence in the press release “If you have any information about crime in your area, please call Crimestoppers at 505-843-STOP”, like making a phone call is going to matter much considering what the APD spokesman said to the media the night before:

“We don’t know what’s going on. I’m not sure why people are committing violence against each other. It’s very unsettling.”
“We’re strapped. We’re working really, really hard to solve these crimes. … We’re trying to keep the public safe, but we recognize that people continue to be violent toward each other and we can’t run an operation to stop that.”
“We are asking public to calm down.”

I guess we all need to make sure we calm down when we see another murder and call crimestoppers.

What is even more disappointing is that a two paragraph “public relations” press release was issued to address the murder crisis and violent crime increases as oppose to a substantive press conference.

The Mayor and the police Chief had no problems appearing at a press conference two days before on March 21, 2018, to announced that the Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police were joining forces to address the city’s and the county’s out of control auto theft rates, and they should do the same with their upcoming plans for APD.

The press release was a lost opportunity to show real leadership and to talk about what is being done now as opposed to just saying “we are focusing city priorities to help make the public safer.”

The media and the public have heard the same claim two years ago from the previous administration when the press release said “We restructured APD to get more officers and resources on the streets in your neighborhoods and are working with the community to better fight crime.”

Two years ago, a big deal by the media was made out of the “reorganization” that was suppose to add upwards of 100 officers to patrol the streets.

What the Keller Administration needs to address is the proposal to spend $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to expand and grow the ranks of APD.

The goal is to hire and expand APD from 850 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers by implementing a hiring and recruitment program that offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing in the hopes of bringing down the city’s high crime rates.

APD HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION UNIT OVERWHELMED

Currently, there are only nine homicide detectives.

The only real new information in the press release is that two more will now be added.

Adding two more detectives as announced is a good start.

APD’s homicide clearance rate has usually been in the 80% and it is now only 59%.

APD says detectives are working on 35 unsolved murder cases from 2017.

APD’s Homicide Detective Unit is overwhelmed by the caseload and needs immediate help and resources.

The Homicide Investigation Unit needs to be at least 15 detectives to 20 detectives.

APD is in a crisis mode and it needs to concentrate on recruiting seasoned homicide detectives from other departments if necessary.

At the very least, APD needs to ask for temporary assignment of personnel from other agencies such as the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department or the State Police to help clear out the cases.

ALBUQUERQUE IS A VIOLENT CITY

In 2017, violent crime rose by 18% over the previous year.

Since 2012, violent crime has dramatically increased in Albuquerque by 77%.

In 2017 “nonfatal shootings” increased by a whopping 148%.

According to APD statistics released for 2017, homicides increased by 23%, robberies increase by 43%, rapes increased by 21% and aggravated assaults increased 4.2%.

The dramatic increase in crime in 2017 followed a 15.5 percent increase in violent crime in 2016.

In 2016, Albuquerque had a 13.3% increase property crimes.

The most dramatic figures in the 2017 crime statistics are for robberies, which increased by 43.6%, and nonfatal shootings, which were up by 148 percent.

On December 28, 2017 Albuquerque reached a record high of 75 murders in one year.

The record high was originally 70 murders in the year 1996.

APD is severely understaffed having gone from 1,100 sworn police in 2010 to 856 in 2018.

CONCLUSION

High crime rates, public safety and the Albuquerque Police Department were the biggest issues debated in the 2017 Mayor’s race.

Both Mayor Tim Keller and Interim Chief of Police Michael Geier have now been on the job less than 4 months commencing December 1, 2017.

I do not envy Mayor Tim Keller nor Chief Michael Geier but voters are expecting results and are impatient after eight years of failed leadership.

Both Keller and Geier wanted the jobs, they knew what they were getting into and they need to move fast on increasing APD staffing.

On April 1, 2018, the Keller Administration is due to summit first budget to the City Council for review and approval and perhaps at that time Mayor Keller and Chief Geier will do a press conference to discuss what specific plans they have to address APD funding and to bring down our violent crime rates.

A Belly Full OF Being Told To Calm Down While People Get Murdered

On March 21, 2018 the dead body of a man was found around 11:00 am at the Econo Lodge located at Coors Boulevard and Iliff Road.

According to reports, an employee of the motel entered a room at the motel to clean it and found the slain victim.

5th Homicide In Six Days

Five homicides in six days!

Fifteen homicides reported in three months thus far, or 5 a month and counting!

Albuquerque had 13 murders by this time last year.

Yet another record set in Albuquerque’s violent crime rates.

APD Public Information Officer Simon Drobik would not disclose detailed facts on how the man died but did say there was enough evidence to conclude it was a homicide because of the condition of the room and the way the body was discovered.

Drobik stated that five homicides in six days has placed a severe strain on the department.

The five killings have taken resources away from other police work and other violent crime calls for service throughout the city.

APD spokesman Simon Dobik went on to tell the media:

“We don’t know what’s going on. I’m not sure why people are committing violence against each other. It’s very unsettling.”
“We’re strapped. We’re working really, really hard to solve these crimes. … We’re trying to keep the public safe, but we recognize that people continue to be violent toward each other and we can’t run an operation to stop that.”
“We are asking the public to calm down.”

apd-tallies-5th-homicide-in-6-days.html

The more things change the more things stay the same, even with a new Mayor and a new interim APD Chief of Police who took over on December 1, 2017.

Law enforcement always insist that one of their own do press briefings so as not to jeopardize an investigation, taint a crime scene, or for that matter not say something that may result in evidence being suppressed.

The public has seen this type of scenario play out before with an APD public information officer trying to calm things down while the top brass and the Mayor are nowhere to be found, for at least a couple of days.

Photo ops playing quarterback in exhibition games and running in track meets are not going to cut it.

What is needed is real leadership.

It is the Mayor of Albuquerque or at least the Chief of Police that need make assurances to the public about what is going on and what they intend to do to get a handle on our violent crime rates.

ALBUQUERQUE IS A VIOLENT CITY

In 2017, violent crime rose by 18% over the previous year.

Since 2012, violent crime has dramatically increased in Albuquerque by 77%.

The 77% increase in violent crime in 2017 was still significantly less than “nonfatal shootings” which increased by a whopping 148%.

According to APD statistics released for 2017, homicides increased by 23%, robberies increase by 43%, rapes increased by 21% and aggravated assaults increased 4.2%.

The dramatic increase in crime in 2017 followed a 15.5 percent increase in violent crime in 2016.

In 2016, Albuquerque had a 13.3% increase property crimes.

Since 2012, Albuquerque’s violent crime rates have steadily increased.

The most dramatic figures in the 2017 crime statistics are for robberies, which increased by 43.6%, and nonfatal shootings, which were up by 148 percent.

On December 28, 2017 Albuquerque reached a record high of 75 murders in one year.

(See December 28, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “The city has reached 75 homicides with decomposed body, police say”)

The record high was originally 70 murders in the year 1996.

APD HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION UNIT OVERWHELMED

Currently, there are only nine homicide detectives, and a sergeant, that are currently investigating homicides.

APD’s homicide clearance rate has usually been in the 80% and it is now only 59%.

APD’s Homicide Detective Unit is overwhelmed by the caseload and needs immediate help and resources.

APD says detectives are also working on 35 unsolved murder cases from 2017 alone.

The Homicide Investigation Unit needs to be at least 15 detectives to 20 detectives.

APD is in a crisis mode and it needs to concentrate on recruiting seasoned homicide detectives from other departments if necessary.

At the very least, APD needs to ask for temporary assignment of personnel from other agencies such as the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department or the State Police to help clear out the cases.

The longer a homicide case takes to complete an investigation or is neglected because of lack of personnel, the less likely the cases will be solved.

Adding to the crisis is the emotional toll an unsolved murder takes on the families of the victims.

APD SWORN OFFICER DEFICIENCY

The steady increases in our crime rates coincide with the steady decrease in size of the Albuquerque Police Department.

APD is so severely understaffed it cannot complete felony investigations and get the cases over to the District Attorney for successful prosecution.

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 eight (8) years, APD went from 1,100 sworn police to 853 sworn police.

In 2017, APD was funded for 1,000 sworn officers but had only 853 sworn police officers.

Funding for the unfilled positions has gone to pay police overtime.

Last year, APD busted its overtime budget by $4 million dollars and it went from $9 million budgeted to $13 million spent in overtime.

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.

The Keller Administration is proposing to spend $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to expand and grow the ranks of APD.

The goal is to hire and expand APD from 850 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers by implementing a hiring and recruitment program that offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing in the hopes of bringing down the city’s high crime rates.

On March 21, 2018, it was announced that the Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police were joining forces to address the city’s and the county’s out of control auto theft rates.

The initiative is called the “Bernalillo County Auto Theft Suppression Effort”.

The auto theft suppression effort will include tactical operations that combine technology, resources, manpower and intelligence from all three of the law enforcement agencies to arrest more suspects and recover more stolen vehicles.

The same concept as the “Bernalillo County Auto Theft Suppression Effort” should be implemented to deal with Albuquerque’s unresolved homicide cases.

CONCLUSION

High crime rates, public safety and the Albuquerque Police Department were the biggest issues debated in the 2017 Mayor’s race.

Both Mayor Tim Keller and Interim Chief of Police Michael Geier have now been on the job less than 4 months commencing December 1, 2017.

Voters have had a belly full of being told to “calm down” about our high crime rates for the last eight years.

I do not envy Mayor Tim Keller nor Chief Michael Geier and voters are expecting results.

Both Keller and Geier wanted the jobs, they knew what they were getting into and they need to move fast on increasing APD staffing.

Law Enforcement Competitors Joining Forces To Reduce Auto Thefts

On March 21, 2018, it was announced at a joint press conference the Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police are joining forces to address the city’s and the county’s out of control auto theft rates.

It’s about time, it is long overdue, and we can expect positive results.

The initiative is called the “Bernalillo County Auto Theft Suppression Effort”.

The auto theft suppression effort will include tactical operations that combine technology, resources, manpower and intelligence from all three of the law enforcement agencies to arrest more suspects and recover more stolen vehicles.

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) for the past two months has been concentrating on auto theft sting operations and those efforts will continue according to Interim Chief Michael Geier.

APD’s first auto theft sting of the year resulted in 22 felony arrests and 23 recovered vehicles and in the first two months of the year the APD recovered a total of 843 vehicles and made 137 arrests.

The Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Department (BCSO) auto theft unit and its “Fugitive Apprehension & Surveillance Team” will assist APD and the New Mexico State Police with joint operations.

The BCSO will participate in monthly tactical plans and will use marked patrol cars equipped with a GPS tracker that can be attached to a suspect’s vehicle.

The New Mexico State Police has assigned a lieutenant, a sergeant and four detectives to be part of an auto theft unit to work with APD and BCSO by running bait car operations, checking license plates and lending extra resources in the field.

RISING AUTO THEFT RATES

According to FBI statistics, the overwhelming majority of auto thefts occur in Albuquerque.

Since 2013, Albuquerque has seen more than a three-fold increase in auto theft along with climbing rates of armed robbery, larceny and burglary.

In 2013, a total of 2,743 auto thefts were reported.

Last year, the number of auto thefts reported was 7,684, which was slightly down from 2016 when 7,710 vehicles were stolen.

In 2016 more than 10,000 vehicles were stolen in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County combined or more than 27 vehicles a day.

In 2016, the city accounted for about 65 percent of the stolen vehicles in the state and about 30 percent of the population.

In June, 2017, the National Insurance Crime Bureau declared Albuquerque “the auto theft capital of the nation” for its rate of auto thefts, with 1,114 vehicle thefts per 100,000 people.

CONCLUSION

The three premier and largest law enforcement agencies in the State of New Mexico are the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department and the New Mexico State Police.

Over my career as a prosecutor as an Assistant Attorney General and as an Assistant District Attorney, I have worked and prosecuted many a case, both drug cases and violent crime cases, with all three agencies.

The taxpayers and voters of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County all pay for, in one form or another, to maintain all three law enfocement agencies.

All three of the agencies are in constant competition with each other for personnel, funding and resources from the State and Federal government.

All three law enforcement agencies are highly territorial in many respects and that is to be expected and also to be respected given the nature of law enforcement.

There are many times all three agencies do cooperate and collaborate with each other in cases, especially cases involving SWAT callouts, high profile emergencies such as school shootings, police officer involved shootings, and with tasks forces involving federal authorities.

However, the three law enforcement agencies normally do not work together to investigate day to day crime in that each law enforcement agency have their own cases to deal with exclusively.

When the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department and the New Mexico State Police work together, exchange data and coordinate resources for a common goal, without concern for what agency gets the recognition, the big winners are always the citizens all three protect.

The formation of “Bernalillo County Auto Theft Suppression Effort” is a recognition by all three agencies just how much they need each other for the common good of serving and protecting the citizens of New Mexico.

The Bernalillo County Auto Theft Suppression Effort is the very first step in reducing our out of control auto theft rates.

If history is any indication of what can be accomplished with cooperation between all three agencies, we should see tangible results within in a year that all three agencies can take credit for and be very proud of and be appreciated for by the citizens of New Mexico.

For more of affects of auto theft see: http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/03/14/stolen-cars-only-tip-of-iceberg-for-a-violent-city/