Joe Monahan is a political blogger who publishes his political blog “New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan”.
On Wednesday August 8, Joe Monahan published the following excerpt that should be of interest to any city hall observer:
HEADLINE: “No one said it would be easy; Albuquerque still defined by crime and so is Mayor Keller.”
Try as he might with the latest PR techniques featuring a myriad of announcements on small ball stuff, ABQ Mayor Tim Keller remains behind the eight ball as a violent summer continues pretty much unabated in the state’s largest city.
The city is approaching 50 homicides for the year (47 so far) and that number has already been surpassed when you include all of BernCo.
The latest slaying was that of a 25-year-old man Saturday night in downtown ABQ, delivering a further blow to the city’s economic development even as Keller prepared the release of his economic plan.
Downtown ABQ, with often good cause, is perceived by tourists and visiting businessmen and women as a dangerous place to traverse.
Keller has resisted pleas from business owners to establish a downtown police district, something they assert he promised during the campaign.
The administration has claimed some success in reducing auto theft and other property crimes since taking power last December, but the spate of shootings and murders lend a sense of anarchy when it comes to getting crime truly under of control.
Patience is starting to wear thin, with not only the violence weighing on residents but the still uncertain leadership skills of APD Chief Michael Geier.
Mayor Keller’s economic plan has long concentrated on bolstering local businesses.
Because what major national business with good jobs, young employees and their families would want to come here given current circumstances?
CAMPAIGN ON CRIME
The ABQ crime wave has entered the Governor’s race, with Dem hopeful Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham releasing a TV ad that touts her success in winning federal funding for crime fighting:
“In Congress I got millions of dollars for our police. I can do even more as Governor.”
More money is always welcome but that is not ABQ’s problem.
The Mayor and City Council approved a quarter cent increase in the gross receipts tax that took effect July 1 that is expected to pump over $50 million a year into city coffers, the lion’s share of which will go to police and crime fighting.
That money is Mayor Keller’s last leg to stand on.
If a year from today we are still dealing with an orgy of violence, drug-dealing and horrid child abuse cases it won’t be for a lack of money, it will be for a lack of leadership.”
The link to Joe Monahan’s blog is here:
PUBLIC SAFETY ALWAYS ISSUE IN MAYORS RACE
In 2009, when Richard Berry ran against incumbent Mayor Marty Chavez and former State Senator Richard Romero, the rise in property crime and auto thefts were made a major issue by Berry.
Candidate Berry did a commercial standing next to his truck that had been torched after it was stolen and then found.
Berry proclaimed: “I will make Albuquerque the worse place to be a criminal.”
The ad was effective and Berry went on to become Mayor.
Eight (8) years ago when Berry took office, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was the best trained, best equipped, best funded department in its history and was fully staffed with 1,100 sworn police officers.
Tragically, Albuquerque’s crime rates have been steadily climbing since 2012.
Since 2012, violent crime has grown by an astonishing 77%.
In 2013, when Berry ran for reelection, he argued that crime was down, when it was not, and his lies eventually caught up with him and he left office with an extremely low approval rating.
In 2013, drug crimes and property crimes were spiking and APD sworn police officer levels were dropping dramatically.
In eight (8) years during Berry’s 2 terms in office, APD went from 1,100 sworn police to a mere 853 with only 435 sworn police patrolling the streets and taking calls for service.
During the 2017 mayoral race, crime, public safety the Albuquerque Police Department and the DOJ reforms were the biggest issues.
In 2017, violent crime in the city jumped by 18 percent over the previous year.
In 2017, Homicides were up 23 percent, robberies were up by 43 percent, rapes were up 21 percent and aggravated assaults climbed by 4.2 percent.
The spike in crime in 2017 followed a 15.5 percent increase in violent crime in the city in 2016, and a 13.3 percent jump in property crime.
In June, for the second year in a row the city was named the auto theft capital of the nation by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
In July, 2018, APD released the city’s crime statistics for the first half of 2018 comparing them to the first half of 2017.
APD reported that all major categories of property crime went down for the first time in 8 years.
However, there were 6 more murders in the first quarter of 2018 compared with 2017 which was a 50% increase.
Homicides have now dropped the first half of 2018 by 18% compared to last year which is great news.
Notwithstanding, the 18% drop in homicides, Albuquerque is still on track to break the all-time record high of 70 murders by the end of the year.
In politics, appearance all too often are everything, as is often what is not said nor done.
“Appearance politics” is something I suspect Mayor Keller is acutely aware of given that he is in public relations mode non-stop.
Mayor Tim Keller has taken photo ops to a new level by attending protest rallies to speak at, attending marches, attending heavy metal concerts to introduce the band, running in track meets and participating in exhibition football games as the quarterback and enjoying re-living his high school glory days, and posting pictures and videos on FACEBOOK.
It is also a very necessary and critical part of the job of being Mayor and he cannot be faulted for that point.
It is very good news that Albuquerque’s property crime rates for the first time in a number of years appear to be declining, but for how long and to what extent only time will tell.
Keller can take comfort and a degree of credit for bringing down property crimes for the first half of the year on his watch and he can breathe a little easier, but not for long.
Property crimes tend to be “seasonal” and increase in the summer time, so APD needs to continue with their efforts and vigilance.
The bad news is that the city’s murder rates are still way too high and the city is way too violent.
There is a big difference between governing and running for office.
When Tim Keller was running, he proclaimed that APD needed serious reform and promised to return to community base policing.
To his credit, Mayor Tim Keller is planning to spend $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers by implementing a hiring and recruitment program to offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing.
Keller’s plan to turn APD around is going to take more time than he may have to convince people that he has solved Albuquerque’s high crime rates, especially when there is blood in the streets and our children continue to be murdered the way 9 year old Victoria Marten’s was raped, murdered, dismembered and burned.
During the first year of his expansion plan for APD, Mayor Keller has 1,040 officers budgeted for which is 40 more sworn officers than the 1,000 budgeted for last year.
APD currently has 870 sworn police officers.
APD is now Mayor Keller’s department and APD’s homicide division has brought shame upon the department in botching case after case and their clearance rate is atrocious at less than 50% when at one time it was at least 85%.
Adding gasoline to the fire, even after a homicide is committed and defendants are arrested, cases are being dismissed because of shoddy and incomplete investigations, a failure to process scientific evidence such as DNA and with people arrested that did not even commit the crime having to be released.
No amount of public relations, inspiring speeches, hand shaking and feel good FACEBOOK videos by Mayor Keller are going to bring down our crime rates to where they were 8 years ago.
Voters tend to be very fickle.
As Mayor Tim Keller approaches his first full year in office, people are beginning to demand far more results.
With the daily reports of homicides in the news, people are beginning to believe the change they voted for is not materializing and things are getting worse with APD and crime.
As Joe Monahan so accurately stated: “If a year from today we are still dealing with an orgy of violence, drug-dealing and horrid child abuse cases it won’t be for a lack of money, it will be for a lack of leadership.”
Those are harsh words, but it is reality politics and the nature of city elections.
Mayor Keller’s success with dealing with our crime rates and the management of APD with respect to the Department of Justice reforms will have a direct impact on Mayor Keller’s chances of being reelected or for that matter going on to higher office.
There is no amount of public relations that will prevent Mayor Tim Keller from being defined by our serious violent crime rates and he needs to act far more aggressively.
If our homicide rate is not brought under control by Keller, do not be surprised if one of Keller’s opponents in 3 years does a political ad in a morgue standing next to a coffin reminiscent of Berry standing next to his stolen and burned out recovered truck and saying that Keller has failed as Mayor when it comes to public safety.
For more on crime rates see: