A Brief History of ABQ Uptown: 1952 to 2019

This is the second of two articles of what I remember when it comes to the Albuquerque I grew up in, went to school, worked in, raised a family and what the city has become today.

The first article discusses the history of Downtown Albuquerque from 1952 to 2019 and how the Downtown area has evolved over the years.

You can read the first article entitled “A Breif History of Downtown: 1952 to 2019” at the link in the poscript below.

(Editors Note: The first article “A Breif History of Downtown: 1952 to 2019” has been edited, shortened, and updated. Information contained in the first article on “ABQ Uptown” was used for the second article with additional information added to it. What many readers who were born and raised here or who have spent most of their lives here will discover is that the mere mention of the names of businesses and locations will bring back a rush of memories to them, hence the writing approach.)

INTRODUCTION

To read this article in perspective a few introductory remarks are in order.

Both articles were written with a heavy reliance on memory followed up with research to confirm dates given.

I was born on March 1, 1952 at Presbyterian Hospital and raised in Albuquerque.

According to the 1950 Census, the city’s population was 97,000 people and in 2018 the city proper had an estimated population of 558,000.

https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1950/pc-02/pc-2-45.pdf

I attended St. Mary’s grade school downtown (1st grade to 8th), then Cleveland Junior High, now Mid School, 9th grade, (Louisiana, NE), and then went and graduated from Del Norte High School (Montgomery, Ave and San Mateo) in 1970.

Around 1960, the Paul and Rose Dinelli family of five moved from a home on Lomas and 3rd Street to a Mossman-Gladden, “red brick”, tract home on San Pedro, North of Menaul. I recall being told year later that the home was originally purchased for around $16,000.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF “UPTOWN ABQ” AS RETAIL CENTER

From approximately 1952 to about 1965, Downtown Albuquerque on Central from Broadway to Rio Grande, including Old Town, was considered the “hub of activity” for retail and business where you would shop, bank and go for entertainment and the area of major tourist activity. Central Avenue going West from Broadway Ave to the Rio Grande River is traditionally thought of as “Downtown” by many born and raised in Albuquerque or long-term residents.

“Uptown Albuquerque” and the “mid heights” can be defined as the square area bordered by Central Street as the Southern border, Montgomery as the Northern border, San Mateo as the Western border and Eubank as the Eastern border. From 1985 to 1989, much of the Uptown area, including the State Fair grounds on Lomas was Albuquerque City Councillor Pete Dinelli’s District 5, which is now District 7.

“Uptown Albuquerque” at Louisiana and South of I-25 as it is today in the 1970s to the 1990s was originally referred to by the locals as the North East Heights. As time progressed, the area began to be referred to as the “Mid Heights” because of all the residential development that occurred from Juan Tabo, NE to the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.

Juan Tabo to the foothills of the Sandia Mountains is now referred to as the “Far North East Heights”.

After “Downtown Urban Renewal” of the 1960s and 1970s that resulted in the construction of the original Albuquerque Convention Center and Civil Plaza, Albuquerque’s population growth continued to the North East Heights with Coronado Shopping Center and WINROCK eventually replacing the Downtown Central retail shopping area of the city.

Many of the national downtown retail stores such as Sears, J.C. Penny’s and Montgomery Wards relocated to the malls to follow all the residential development.

It was with the building of the major retail shopping malls in the 1960s and when the city growth and population began spreading to the East and North East when the downtown Central Avenue area very slowly began to wither and die.

Residential home developers Mossman-Gladden, Dale Bellamah, Edward H. Snow,and Sam Hoffman were the four major residential home developers in Albuquerque for decades.

(Un-confirmed rumors suggest that Albuquerque residential home developer Edward H. Snow is a very distant grandson of Ed Snow of Game of Thrones. )

In 1950, residential home developer Sam Hoffman built the 800-house Hoffmantown Addition north of Menaul, east of Wyoming. In 1951, Hoffmantown Shopping Center, located at 8200 Menaul Blvd NE and on the SW corner of Wyoming was built by residential home developer Sam Hoffman. The shopping center which still stands today has a curving 450 foot linear building fronted by a parking lot with the distinctive “Hoffman Town Shopping Center” sign. Over the years, many businesses have come and gone at the shopping center. One very popular restaurant was “Charlies Back Door” and “Charlies Front Door”. There was also the Hoffmantown barbershop that was located at the location for many years where Paul Dinelli once worked as a barber before opening “Paul’s Barbershop” at third and Lomas downtown.

In 1954, residential home developer Dale Bellamah developed the 1,600-home Princess Jeanne Park, named for his wife, between Lomas and Indian School from Eubank to Juan Tabo. Dale Bellamah also built the Kirtland Addition just west of the airport.

Around 1960, from San Pedro going North East was basically vacant land that was developed over the subsequent years with many homes built in the area of Menaul and San Pedro NE going North to Candelaria and East to Wyoming.

WINROCK mall was opened March, 1961, Coronado Shopping Center was opened March, 1965 and both were originally “open malls” and two of the very first malls ever opened in the United States.

Both WINROCK and Coronado have expanded and transformed repeatedly various times from open malls to closed indoor malls, with Winrock now undergoing yet another transformation to outdoor retail stores.

The UPTOWN Commons Shopping area opened in 2006 on the site of the original St. Pius High School site.

CORONADO SHOPPING CENTER

Coronado Shopping Center was the first major mall constructed in Albuquerque.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronado_Center

Homart Development Company was the developer and it was the mall-building subsidiary for SEARS.

Originally, in 1965 Coronado Mall was an open air shopping center with the major anchor stores of Sears and Rhodes Department Stores.

Other stores in 1965 at Coronado included Dorothy-Gray’s Dress and Beaty Shop, Fashion Fabric Center, Henry’s Fine’s Menswear, Mandel’s Womans Apparel, the Sewing Nook, Swiss Colony Cheese House, Unique Boutique, Car-Lin Casuals, Lynn’s Apparel Shop, Richman Brother Men’s Wear, Sweetbriar Ladies Wear Shop, Judd’s Jewelers and Bank of New Mexico.

A Wyatts Cafeteria and VIP’s Big Boy were also located at Coronado Shopping Center at one time when the mall was eventually enclosed.

A “Fudruckers” hamburger restaurant is now located where the Wyatt’s Cafeteria was located and a “Kirkland” Department store is now located where the “VIP’s Bigboy Restaurant” was.

At the center of the Coronado open air mall was a fountain with the sculpture entitled “Coronado’s March” consisting of a line of soldiers, horses and pack animals. The sculpture was re located to the South West entrance of Coronado Mall where the food court is located when the mall was expanded and enclosed.

In 1974, Rhodes Brothers was re-branded as Liberty House.

In the mall’s 1975-1976 expansion, Goldwater’s and The Broadway anchor stores were added, and in 1984 a fifth anchor store Sanger-Harris was added.

At one time, a “Broadway” tire and mechanics garage was located on the West area of the shopping center, with the building still standing and used as storage.

A SEARS free standing Automotive and Tire shop was located on Menaul and the building was torn down in 2017 for parking and after SEARS closed.

In the late 1970s, Liberty House closed and was replaced by Mervyn’s Department Store.

“Chelsea Street Pub” was located at the North West Entrance of Coronado Shopping Center with both a mall entrance and an outside mall entrance to be used after regular mall hours to go and eat and drink.

Goldwater’s Department store closed in 1986, but later reopened as May D&F in 1989.

Sanger-Harris was re-branded as Foley’s in 1987 and in 1988 Foley’s closed.

In 1990, J. C. Penney opened at the former Sanger-Harris/Foley’s store area.

May D&F was re-branded as Foley’s in 1993, signifying Foley’s return to Coronado mall.

The Broadway was re-branded as Macy’s in 1996.

In 2006, Foley’s was re-branded as Macy’s, and Macy’s vacated the former “The Broadway” store area, which has now been taken over by Gordmans upstairs and Dick’s Sporting Goods downstairs.

In 2008, Mervin’s closed all stores nationally due to bankruptcy and the store area was remodeled for Kohl’s, which opened in 2010. The Kohl’s store area was “downsized” and a “Panera” bread and sandwich shop was opened on the East side of Kohl’s.

In 2019, Coronado mall is the largest in the state of New Mexico with 150 stores and is anchored by Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

There are a number of strip store fronts on Sand Pedro and Menaul across the street from Coronado Shopping Center, with many well know businesses long gone.

As an example, Fiesta Lanes Bowling Alley was located on the north east corner of Menaul and San Pedro, and the original “bowling alley” marque sign with the outline of a bowling pin and bowling ball still remain as signage for businesses such as Staples Office Supply.

In the mid 1980’s, a Baptist Church was located on San Pedro just South of the “Butterfield’s Plaza” with Butterfield’s Jewelry Store and Mario’s Restaurant across from Coronado still in business.

The church had to be demolished after a tornado touched down briefly and did structural damage to the church and minor roof damage to Coronado Shopping Center. The law offices Of Freeman, Houseman and Dinelli, PA, were on the 15th floor of the First National Bank Building located at Central and San Mateo and the top of tornado funnel as it was forming was seen as the tornado was drifting into the city from the West of the City. A two-story commercial office building called the “Uptown Center Executive Suites” was constructed on the site of the church after it was demolished.

Stand alone restaurants built on the Coronado Shopping parking areas include Seasons 52, Longhorn Steak House and “The Cheese Factory” as a built out and separate building from the mall.

“WINROCK SAYS IT All”

Winthrop Rockefeller was an American politician and philanthropist and real estate developer, who served as the first Republican governor of Arkansas and he was a third-generation member of the Rockefeller family, one of the richest family’s in America.

WINROCK was named after Winthrop Rockefeller who developed the property and its original slogan was “Winrock Says It ALL”.

When WINROCK first opened as an “open air mall”, Diamond Jim’s Restaurant was directly South of the West Side entrance of the mall and before you actually went into the mall as you ascended op thw walkway with a “food booth”.

Rose Fresques Dinelli was a waitress at Diamond Jim’s when it first opened and she stayed with the restaurant to the day it closed.

Some of the original stores in the original WINROCK open mall included Lerner’s, Thom McCan’s Shoe Store, ZALES, “Toys by Roy”, Montgomery Wards, Record Rendezvous, JC Penny, Jordans, Paris Shoe Store, Hallmark, Pastians Bakery.

Directly to the South and on mall property was the White WINROCK two story hotel complex.

A branch of First National Bank was in the North area end outside WINROCK mall with a Safeway Grocery store and a Value House Jewelry Store.

Where the existing Romano’s Restaurant Grill now is located directly West of WINROCK on Louisiana was “Lieter’s Chevron” gas station.

On the North-East corner of the WINROCK property where a multi-screen movie theater now stands was the FOX WINROCK theater that was the single largest screen in New Mexico. The FOX Winrock Theater had a massive slopping roof that went up to accommodate the screen on the interior with the downside to the theater being that only one movie at a time could be featured.Movies such as “2001 A Space Odessey”, the original “Planet of the Apes” (Charlton Heston) and Taming of the Shrew (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) all premiered in Albuquerque on the big FOX Theater screen. When in High School, Pete Dinelli was an usher, along with Marty Fickle and Scott Frame, who worked for Louis Gasperini.

Where the Gardunio’s of New Mexico Restaurant now sits on the WINROCK property was “Farrel’s Ice Cream Shop” which opened in the mid 1970’s.

WINROCK closed down as a shopping mall for many years with only the Dillard’s Men’s and Women’s locations and a Sports Authority and is now going through yet another transformation.

Today, WINROCK is going through yet another major redevelopment with new stores on the parameter including Dillard’ Men’s and Woman’s Stores, Pets Mart, TJ Max, Northsrom Rack, David’s Bridle Store, DSW Shoes, Famous Footwear, Mattress Firm, Men’s Wearhouse, and ULTA Beauty Cosmetics.

The entire interior of WINROCK and all the store fronts have been gutted to make way for a road down the center lined with stores, restaurants, entertainment and housing or apartment living.

An underground parking lot has also been constructed on the South side of the property that accommodates about 300 cars.

A Regal 16-screen IMAX and RPX Theatre has been constructed on the East of the property.

Chuze Fitness Center replaced “Toys R Us” on the WINROCK property when the toy store chain went out of business in 2018.

Free standing restaurants on the WINROCK property include Red Robbin, Sauce Pizza and Wine, BJ Brew House, Burger 21, Dave and Busters, Firehouse Subs, Garduno’s of Mexico, Genghis Grill.

At the intersection corner of Northeast Louisiana Boulevard and Northeast Indian School of the WINROCK area stood the old Monroe Junior High School which closed in 1974. The school was demolished soon after it closed and the prime commercial property was sold by the School district.

In March, 2014, a unique single-level TARGET store located at the old Monroe School site at the intersection of Northeast Louisiana Boulevard and Northeast Indian School Road was opened. The TARGET is very unique by providing shoppers covered, ground-level parking, with the store elevated directly above the store. The TARGET store includes a fresh produce section, fresh packaged meat and pre-packaged baked goods. The 155,000 square-foot store employs more than 200 people.

ST. PIUS X HIGH SCHOOL TRANSFORMS INTO UPTOWN COMMONS

The “Uptown” Commons stores complex located at Indian School and Louisiana was opened in 2006 and was built on the original site of St. Pius High School.

The St. Pius High School property where the Commons now sits was sold by the Catholic Church and the high school was moved to its present location on Coors Road on the West Side, with that location being the former campus of the University of Albuquerque and formerly the College of St. Joseph on the Rio Grande.

The University of Albuquerque was a Catholic liberal arts university in Albuquerque which closed in 1986.

The west side campus atop a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande on Albuquerque’s West Side was constructed in 1950.

The “Uptown” Commons has become a vibrant retail shopping area with 51 store fronts and high-end retail specialty stores and restaurants.

A few of the stores in “Uptown Commons” include Banna Republic, Chico’s, Coldwater Creek, Eddie Bauer, Jos. A Banks, Michael Kors, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, an Apple Computer Store, White House Black Market, Eddie Bauer, The Gap, MAC Cosmetics, MATI Jewelers, Jared’s Jewelry Store, Lee Michael’s Fine Jewelry, SPRINT, T Mobile and ATT to mention a few.

Restaurants at the Uptown Commons include BRAVO, the Elephant Bar, Mc Alisters, Sahara Mediterranean, California Pizza, the Melting Pot with a Starbucks Coffee shop.

A Trader Joe’s is also located on the East side of the Uptown Commons property.

https://www.mallscenters.com/malls/new-mexico/abq-uptown-mall

OFFICE BUILDINGS, APARTMENTS AND HOTELS EMERGE IN “UPTOWN”

From 1975 to 2008, a number of hotels, apartment complexes and office buildings were built in the uptown area within walking distance of the cities three retail shopping areas of Coronado, Winrock and UPTOWN creating a synergy with the developed residential areas around the entire area.

The following developments are not intended to be an exhaustive listing of major retail and commercial buildings, but those easily identified by name.

UPTOWN COMMERCIAL OFFICE BUILDINGS:

THE ALBUQUERQUE PUBLIC SCHOOLS ADMINISTRATION BUILDINGS (ALSO KNOWN AS “THE BRUCE AND ALICE KING EDUCATION COMPLEX” or “APS City Center”)

The Albuquerque Public Schools Administration Buildings are two identical 6 story buildings located at 6510 Uptown Blvd and built around 1975. The buildings were initially commercial office buildings until purchase by the school system. At one time the law offices of Sutin, Thayer and Brown rented office space at the Western building. Albuquerque Public Schools is among the top 40 largest school districts in the nation and the largest in New Mexico, serving nearly 84,000 students in 143 schools scattered across nearly 1,200 square miles.

“6000 UPTOWN” COMMERCIAL OFFICE BUILDING

In 1981, the 4 story 6000 Uptown Office building was built located immediately East of San Pedro and South of Coronado Shopping Center. The building has 67,376 square feet of rentable office area.

“CITY PLACE” OFFICE BUILDING

In 1982, the construction of the 10 story City Place Office Building was completed and it is located at 2155 Louisiana, NE at the intersection of Louisiana and Indian School. It is a Class A office building with amenities that include floor to ceiling windows that provide outside views on all four sides of the building. In 1989, the law firm of Butt, Thornton Bayher was renting the entire 4th floor of “City Place” and at one time employed as an associate attorney then City Councilor Pete Dinelli.

THE CBRE OFFICE BUILDING

CBRE Office Building located at 6100 Uptown, NE, opened its doors in 1983. CBRE is a commercial real estate service company. The CBRE building is a 7-story office building with a dark rose colored granite facade.

“THE METRO CENTER BUILDING” AND CITY TENNIS COURTS

The Metro Center Building, located at 1720 Louisiana, NE, just South of the interstate, is an eight story, triangular shaped, office building that was opened in 1983. It boasts jet black windows and sits right on the corner and across the street from the Jerry Klein City Park and the City of Albuquerque Tennis Courts.

Jerry Cline Park is named after APD Police Officer Jerry Cline who was shot and killed while on duty. The Jerry Cline Tennis Courts located at the city park were originally located on the Southwest corner of Louisiana and Indian School where a small strip mall now strands with a Pier One Imports, Le Peep Restaurant and a “Ruth Crist’s” Steakhouse. The Ruth Crist’s Steakhouse is located in the original location of “Baily’s Fine Men’s Wear and Apparel” and at the time was the most expensive men’s garment store in Albuquerque.

ONE AND TWO PARK SQUARE TWIN BUILDINGS

Located at 6565 Americas Parkway, NE, South of Indian School and West of Louisiana, and in the heart of uptown Albuquerque, Park Square is an urban development that integrates office, retail and restaurant space. The complex consists of two 10-story office buildings (each containing 200,000 square feet) and a 43,000-square-foot retail arcade. One Park Square was completed in 1985; Two Park Square was completed in 1989. The law firm of Campbell, Pica and Olson, PA was located in One Park Square and employed as an assciate Pete Dinell. The law firm Sutin, Thayer and Brown was also located in one Park Square and at one time had an entire floor on the premises of the building when it opened.

The office buildings are clad in a buff-colored precast concrete with warm-toned windows and teal green painted mullions. The office buildings have been placed on the site adjacent to each other and facing a large plaza that serves as a convenient drop-off point for tenants and visitors. The two buildings were designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

https://www.hines.com/properties/two-park-square-albuquerque

THE CITADEL BUILDING

The Citadel Building, nicknamed the Darth Vader Building, is a 9-story office building that completed in 1997. It is a totally jet-black window glass and black façade building with a silver line along the top that runs down the sides. Because of the shape of the building and the black façade, the building resembles the helmet of Star Wars villain Darth Vader, hence the nickname. The design of the building and the black color was originally intended to look like a piece of San Illfonso black pottery made famous by Maria Preveka. The law firm of Sager and Houston, PA at one time was located in One Park Square and employed as an Associate Attorney Pete Dinelli.

ABQ UPTOWN APARTMENT COMPLEXES

The Uptown Park apartments are studio and 1 and two-bedroom apartments located at 6200 Indian School Rd NE that were built around 1965. In 1978, Pete Dinelli rented a one room apartment for $125 at Uptown Apartments about the size of a dormitory room in order to study for the New Mexico Bar and recalls never getting his damage deposit back.

The Warren Park Apartments located at 6230 Indian School and directly East of the Uptown Park Apartment were also built around 1965.

Around the year 2000, the 4 story Woodmark Assisted Living complex located at 7201 Prospect Pl NE) was opened and provides extensive home care facilities.

ABQ Uptown Apartments were built in 2008 and located at 2222 Uptown Loop, NE, North of Indian School and East of Louisiana. It has rental units of studio apartments and 1,2, 3-bedroom apartments ranging from 603-1,671 square feet. The ABQ Uptown Apartment Complex consists of a number of separate 3 story building.

ABQ UPTOWN HOTEL BUILDINGS:

SHERATON HOTEL (FORMERLY THE “CLASSIC” HOTEL)

The Sheraton Hotel is an 8-story hotel located on the North East corner of Louisiana and Menaul and was completed in 1980 and was originally the “Classic Hotel”. It was built by George G. Maloof, Senior and completed in 1980. George G. Maloof and his family were also the original owners of First National Bank in Albuquerque and the owners of the COORS Beer Distributorship for New Mexico. The Classic Hotel and was originally intended to be a “luxury hotel”. On January 14, 1984, Betty and Pete Dinelli spent their honeymoon at the Classic Hotel and after 34 years remain happily married.

George G. Maloof passed away before the Classic was completed. After the passing of George Maloof Sr, his wife Colleen and her sons George Jr., Gavin, Phil and daughter Adriaenne Maloof, took over the Maloof business operations and expanded tremendously. The Maloofs eventually sold the Classic, moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and eventually buildt the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Maloof’s purchased the Sacramento Kings basketball team. Daughter Adrianne Maloof is one of the original stars in the Real Housewife’s of Beverly Hills.

THE MARRIOTT HOTEL

In 1981, the 15 story, Marriott Hotel was built in Uptown just off I-40Louisiana and the freeway. The hotel is directly south of the Park Square commercial office building. The Hotel has 21 event rooms with a large ballroom that can be converted into smaller event rooms. The Hotel has undergone a number of renovations over the years to keep it updated and competitive. In 2013, Pete Dinelli was running for Mayor of Albuquerque and debated his opponents in the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott.

Around the year 2000, two suite hotels, the 6 story Homewood Hilton Suites, 7101 Arvada Ave., NE and the 6 story Hyatte Place Suites, 6901 Arvada Ave NE, were opened for business. The Hilton Garden Inn ABQ Uptown is a 7-story hotel that was opened for business in 2008 and is located just off I-40 and Louisiana Blvd.

“UPTOWN ALBUQUERQUE” IS THE NEW DOWNTOWN RETAIL AREA

The “Downtown Albuquerque” of 1952 to 1965 has become the government and financial district for the city with the location of city hall, the City/County Government Center, the Court District with the Metro Court, State District Court, and the DA’s Office and the Federal Courts The Social Security Administration, the main bank branches of Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Bank of the West, Compass Bank and other banks and government agencies are also all downtown.

Downtown Albuquerque slowly but surely is beginning to see a return to its heyday of 70 years ago with residential, apartment and condo developments occurring and the development of the rail yards, but it is doubtful it will ever reach the same quaint pinnacle it was from 1952 to 1965.

The center of Albuquerque and the new “downtown” area for commercial and retail is the Uptown Area of the city consisting of Coronado Shopping Center, the many shops at the Commons at Uptown, and the WINROCK development.

The WINROCK development will include even more retail shops and even luxury housing when it’s done not to mention all the restaurants that have popped up in the area with even more planned including commercial office space in the area.

Time does indeed march on even for cities as does a city’s vibrant commercial and retail area.

POSTSCRIPT:

A Brief History of Downtown Albuquerque: 1952 to 2019

APD Chief Michael Geier: City Will Enforce Background Checks On Gun Sales; Declaring Gun Violence Public Health Crisis

On Monday, April 22, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal published a “guest editorial” commentary written by Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier.

The commentary outlines the city’s efforts to close the loophole on background checks for all gun sales and more importantly giving the reasons why.

Below is the guest editorial in full with the Albuquerque Journal link, followed by statistical information, further Commentary and Analysis and related articles.

JOURNAL HEADLINE: APD IS ON THE CASE FOR NEW BACKGROUND CHECKS LAW

BY MIKE GEIER / CHIEF OF POLICE, ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT

Monday, April 22nd, 2019 at 12:02am

“While most categories of crime continue to decline, the one notable exception is gun violence. For that reason, the Albuquerque Police Department is engaging in a multi-prong approach to work with communities to address this challenge. One tool that will help is the new state law that closes the loophole on background checks for gun sales.

Many of my law enforcement colleagues pointed out during the recent legislative debate that this new law will be difficult to enforce. The Journal raised similar concerns in an editorial April 13, “Background check on gun sales difficult to enforce.” But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make our state safer.

In fact, we have a responsibility to keep up with technology by trying to disrupt illegal gun sales that are taking place online. Just as consumers in general are turning to online sales and transactions, we see criminals using the same tools to sell and purchase stolen items of all types, including firearms. Our Organized Crime Unit is adept at monitoring common Web sites and social media used for these sales. We are recovering more guns at crime scenes that were purchased by convicted felons who use online avenues to hide their identities.

Now that we have closed the background check loophole, we can go after these illegal sales, even if takes more effort. And we have a powerful deterrent when offenders have to think twice about going online to find a gun, or even set up illegal, private purchases on the streets.

Other states have implemented background checks on all gun sales and have seen real results. On average, states that require background checks on all gun sales see a 10 percent reduction in homicide rates. Responsible gun owners will need to play their part by ensuring a background check accompanies the sale of a firearm, and those who disregard this new law must know that law enforcement will hold them accountable when the law breaking comes to light.

Only time will tell how much this new tool will help law enforcement. In Albuquerque, we aren’t waiting. We will enforce the law, while at the same time engaging with communities to end gun violence. We are addressing gun violence through data-driven and problem-oriented policing, new technology to track gun violence, addressing community concerns, researching the roots of gun crimes, and sharing information with other law enforcement agencies. We are also addressing crimes like domestic violence, illegal narcotics and gang activity that are compounded by the presence of firearms.

As police chief, I am proud of the hard work by every person in the department, from patrol officers and detectives to civilians who support us every day. They deserve the credit for every success we see as crime goes down; likewise, they need our support to effectively tackle challenges like gun violence.”

Below is the Albuquerque Journal link to the guest column:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1305541/apd-is-on-the-case-of-new-background-checks-law-ex-while-most-categories-of-crime-continue-to-decline-the-one-notable-exception-is-gun-violence.html

VIOLENT CRIME FOR TWO YEARS

The yearly numbers of homicides, aggravated assaults (defined as assaults with a deadly weapon), non-fatal shootings, robberies and rape for the last two years and the first quarter of 2019 gives an accurate picture of the city’s violent crime problems with guns.

Following are the sobering statistics:

HOMICIDES FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 72 (First 6 months: 33)
2018: 65 (First 6 months:39)
Change: -10% (First 6 months -18.2%)

AGGRAVATED ASSAULT FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 4,213 (First 6 months: 1,957)
2018: 3,885 (First 6 months: 1,851)
Change: -8 (First 6 months: -5.4)

NON-FATAL SHOOTINGS FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 470 (First 6 months: 60)
2018: 491 (First 6 months: 63)
Change: +4 (First 6 months: +5.0%)

ROBBERY FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 2,930 (First 6 months: 1,467)
2018: 1,887 (First 6 months: 1,012)
Change: -36% (First 6 months: -31%)

RAPE FOR TWO YEARS
2017: 473 (First 6 months: 236)
2018: 461 (First 6 months: 226)
Change: -3% (First six months -4.2)

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/12/28/abqs-crime-rates-going-down-but-abq-still-a-violent-city/

On March 30, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department released the City’s crime statistics for the first quarter of 2019 which runs from January to March of 2019.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/apd-most-crime-is-down-but-non-fatal-shootings-are-up/5299172/?cat=500

The specific highlights in violent crime categories for the first quarter of 2019 were:

Homicide: down 24% with 14 homicides reported (Spiked to 21 by April 16)
Rape: down 7%
Robbery: down 22%
Aggravated Assault: down 4%

In the first quarter 2019 report, the city saw an increase in nonfatal shootings. According to the statistics, non-fatal shootings went up 12% and there have been 131 nonfatal shootings the first quarter of the year compared to last year’s number of 114.

DECLARING GUN VIOLENCE “PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT”

On April 8, 2019, APD Officials announced several proactive and reactive initiatives designed to combat gun violence in the City and declaring gun violence a public health risk, initiatives touched on by Chief Geier in his commentary.

The specific initiatives announced include:

1. Using data from APD’s Real Time Crime Center to focus on areas with a heavy concentration of gun violence and identify any patterns and putting more officers in those areas.

2. Forming units of officers called Problem Response Teams in each area command. The Problem Response Teams will be made up of officers who don’t take calls for service but will be available to help community members as they need it. After a violent crime, the teams, along with Albuquerque Fire Rescue, will visit the neighborhood and provide resources or information.

3. Identifying those who are selling firearms illegally to felons or juveniles.

4. Working with agencies and universities to conduct research on gun violence as a public health issue.

5. Implementing a standardized shooting response protocol that police must follow within the first 72 hours of a reported crime. APD intends to collect and test all casings at shooting scenes and intends to purchase new equipment and technology that can assist detectives in investigating gun crimes.

6. APD is in the process of hiring additional personnel for the crime lab and securing technology that will increase efficiency around DNA testing including automating the entire unit. The unit that tests DNA and the unit that tests latent fingerprints will be split in an attempt to reduce a backlog of evidence that needs to be tested.

7. Increasing the use of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network and the Problem Response Teams. The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network program is used to identify which guns have been used in multiple crimes by analyzing all casings they can find at violent crime scenes where a firearm has been discharged.

8. Use of a placard police officers can hang on doors to encourage residents to call with information about a crime.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1301057/police-to-focus-on-gun-violence.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Bringing down violent crime involving guns, such as murders and domestic violence, is always more difficult because of entwined issues such as substance abuse, the disintegration of families and many times the failure of law enforcement to respond and social services to respond to warning signs.

A murder is usually committed when another crime is being committed such as armed robbery or domestic violence or it’s a crime committed in the heat of anger and a gun is readily available. Most victims who are murdered know their killer.

It’s difficult at best to bring down homicide rates, but it can be done when you bring down other violent crime such as armed robbery, aggravated assaults, illicit drug offenses and domestic violence.

The increase in nonfatal shootings is a reflection that Albuquerque is a violent city with a culture of violence that will be extremely difficult at best to eliminate.

Twenty eight counties and municipalities in the state that have passed “gun sanctuary resolutions” in defiance to the legislative gun control measures and they are engaging in “feel good” legislation to merely make a political statement.

Any law enforcement official who declares they will not enforce the new background checks laws is proclaiming and making an admission of negligence.

Law enforcement is not above the law, they cannot “pick an choose” what laws to enforce, nor can they decline to enforce laws that their city’s citizens or constituents do not want enforced, which is not how law enforcement works.

The opposing counties and municipalities would better serve their residents and constituencies if they were to promulgate and implement policy measures and provide funding to help the Sheriff’s and Police enforce the law regarding background checks and perhaps fund such services free of charge for their constituents.

The City should provide funding to APD to hire sufficient staff who have a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) clearance to do the “background checks” free of charge for the general public or for a very nominal fee.

If APD does in fact bring down the city’s homicide rate by 10% with the background checks as suggested by chief Geier, it will be worth it and it will save lives.

Only time will tell if APD’s new initiatives are successful, and we all most hope they are for the safety of our families and ourselves.

POSTSCRIPT

Following are links to related blog articles:

“I Will Not Enforce The Law” Admission Of Negligence By Law Enforcement

Background Checks Proposed In “Gun Culture” New Mexico

Four Very Violent Days In A Violent City; APD Declares Violent Crime As “Public Health Issue”

“Top Of The Morning To Ya Patrick Spencer Murdock! Walk Right In!”

On Satuday, April 4, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal publish an UPFRONT article story on the sudden passing of Judge Pat Murdock written by reporter Joline Gutierrez Krueger.

The article captured the essence of the man, his career and his character.

Below is the article in full with the Journal link and followed by further memorial comments.

HEADLINE: “Judge wasn’t perfect, but he was very good”

“ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Years ago, the bailiff for then-state District Judge Albert S. “Pat” Murdoch remarked about how her boss was the judge most sought after by prosecutors, defense attorneys and law enforcement officers alike because of his judicial acumen, accessibility, fairness, firmness and mercy.

“Everyone loves him here,” she said.

But beyond the courtroom was another matter. Those with less loving thoughts knew Murdoch only by rumor and what they heard on radio talk shows or the nightly news.

They held a general disdain for Albuquerque’s judicial system – and for many, Murdoch was the face of that system.

They typically had never met him – or had while in shackles and jail scrubs.

So Murdoch’s bailiff said she often didn’t tell strangers whom she worked for.

It was 2008, the year her boss had shocked the city by sentencing decorated Marine and Iraq War veteran Elton Richard to two years of hard time and heavy restitution for chasing down and killing a would-be burglar. Murdoch reversed his sentence four months later, granting Richard probation and remarking that he had struggled with the case more than any other as a judge for the 2nd Judicial District.

Murdoch weathered the storm of criticism as usual, won his retention election that year and got on with his duties as the presiding judge of the overburdened criminal division in Bernalillo County, carrying one of the heaviest dockets in the state, overseeing grand juries, keeping himself available at all hours to sign warrants and answer media inquiries and helping new judges learn the ropes.

As a longtime criminal justice reporter, I had come to respect Murdoch. I had spent countless hours in his courtroom, wrote his formal name – including the curious “Pat” in quotation marks – so many times that it was second nature.

Nearly every horrible, high-profile case I covered – the rape and murder of Baby Miranda, the fatal shooting of five people across the city in a day, the gangland torture and execution of a teenager in a city park – had been before Murdoch.

He was a good judge, and I was a witness to that.

Two years later, I bumped into Murdoch’s bailiff in, of all places, a Denver restaurant. She had left the courthouse to pursue her dream of going to culinary school.

We talked about how Murdoch had been like a father to her, a kind but demanding boss who worked long, hard hours taking cases no other judge wanted to touch.

Childhood polio required him to use crutches and kept him from growing beyond 5 feet tall, but to her he was a giant among men.

He was that to many of us.

“He’s such a good judge, a brave man,” she said. “If you don’t like him, you don’t know him.”

A year later, Murdoch was also gone from the courthouse. In a stinging, stunning fall from grace, he was arrested in 2011 on salacious charges involving a prostitute suspected of trying to extort him.

The charges never stuck – they were dropped a month later and never refiled – and they had the stink of something retaliatory, shady or weird.

But the damage was done. Murdoch knew that the law he loved and the job he had done so well were lost to him. He immediately stepped down from the bench. He showed up at his arraignment, a rare thing for high-profile defendants who typically hide from the cruel spotlight and scrutiny.

Less than a week later, he agreed to resign and never again serve as a judge in New Mexico.

He left behind 1,433 cases on his docket, a lot of broken hearts and a large hole at the Bernalillo County Courthouse.

Even that did not totally crush Murdoch. He posted occasional jokes, words of encouragement and comments on Facebook, continued his work with a wheelchair basketball team, maintained friendships with the many people who knew that he was much more than his sins and his shortcomings.

He died Monday, almost a month after turning 67 on his St. Patrick’s Day birthday. Those who had practiced before him – judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law enforcement officers, past and present – grieved his passing, paying tribute to his legacy and his friendship on Facebook posts.

Those who didn’t know him were less charitable, the distinction between the righteous and the wicked blurred by time and Google searches.

It was like his bailiff had said years ago: If you didn’t like him, you didn’t know him.

Murdoch was not a perfect man. We knew that. And maybe that’s what made him a good judge.

We knew that, too.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1305146/judge-wasnt-perfect-but-he-was-very-good.html

MEMORIAL COMMENTARY

I graduated in 1970 from Del Norte High School with Judge Pat Murdock and considered him a dear friend.

Pat was truly an exceptional human being and an inspiration throughout his life.

From a professional stand point, I appeared before him many times as a prosecutor when I was Chief Deputy District Attorney and remember his leadership and guidance from the bench during some very troubling times and cases.

We would often talk in his chambers about what was going on in the political world.

He was a man of compassion and was deeply respected by the New Mexico bar, both the defense and the prosecution.

If all of our District Court Judge’s had just half of his talent and ability, especially dealing with our criminal justice system, things would be a lot better.

I will remember that he always tried to find the good in people, even when he himself was not treated so good in his life by people, even with those he was forced to work with and who were critical of him and his decisions as a judge.

His smile, wit, humor and that contagious laugh will be remembered by me, not to mention his extreme pride in his Irish heritage.

I have no doubt the Lord greeted him at the front gate talking to him in an Irish accent and said to him “Top of da mooorning to ya Patrick Spencer Murdock, walk right in and find a place and get comfortable.”

Vija Con Dios, Mi Hermano.

MEMORIAL SERVICE

Visitation 6-8 p.m. Monday at French Funerals, 7121 Wyoming NE. Funeral services 2 p.m. Tuesday at the same location.

One Down, 124 To Go; “Billing And Being Paid” For Work Not Done Epitome Of Government Waste, Fraud and Abuse

The term “scapegoating ” is defined as “ blaming someone for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency.”

On Thursday, April 18, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal published an editorial regarding the ongoing saga of Albuquerque Police Department (APD) Public Information Officer Spokesman Simon Drobik and used the word scapegoating.

On Friday, April 12, 2019, it was reported that the APD Civilian Police Oversight (CPO) Agency recommended the dismissal of APD Master Police Officer 1st Class and Public Information Officer Simon Drobik as well as his former supervisor for overtime pay abuse.

The CPO Agency investigation found that in 2018, Drobik was paid $192,973 making him Albuquerque’s highest-paid employee in 2018. andnd hat his supervisor was one of the city’s top 11 paid wage earners.

You can review both Journal stories here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1302312/dismissal-of-spokesman-urged.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/1302650/apd-reviewing-oversight-report-into-spokesmans-pay.html

ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL

The April, 18 Albuquerque Journal editorial on the developing overtime pay scandal was entitled “Firing Officer Won’t Fix APD Overtime Accounting”.

Following is the entire Journal editorial followed by the Journal link:

“The Civilian Police Oversight Agency’s investigation into an Albuquerque police officer’s pay has resulted in the CPOA recommending that officer Simon Drobik and his unnamed supervisor be fired for various time sheet transgressions.

Rather than drop the hammer so quickly on two individuals, department officials should follow the CPOA’s recommendation to scrutinize current policies and practices – and the extent of violations of such. Then they should demand repayment of excess earnings and determine disciplinary action for all those involved.

Drobik earned $192,973 in 2018 – more than any other city employee. The committee believes that some of Drobik’s earnings were obtained inappropriately because he was accepting overtime assignments during time frames when he was on call in his capacity as a spokesman to the media. According to APD’s standard operating procedure, officers aren’t allowed to accept overtime shifts if they are also on call.

The overtime in question wasn’t extra hours on a normal shift; Drobik was working “chief’s overtime,” a practice in which private organizations pay the city to have an officer stationed at their business or directing traffic. That means at least some of the money he earned during those assignments was reimbursed from private entities.

That’s not an excuse for Drobik or his supervisor ignoring SOP or his timesheet kerfuffle, of course; at the heart of APD’s policy is the fact that nobody can be in two places at once, nor should they be paid as if they were. Either the taxpayer or the private entity is getting the short end of the stick.

In one particularly problematic incident, Drobik was stationed at Target for chief’s overtime but left after being called in when a suspect shot at police in a tense situation that turned into a SWAT standoff. It’s in question if he was paid for both his spokesman duties and being at Target.

No one questions Drobik’s work ethic or his job performance. But the committee said Drobik might not be the only one with a problematic time card. And the decision to get rid of the cap on overtime when there was a severe shortage of officers may have muddied the issue.

APD leaders must put in the work to figure out how widespread the policy violations are and whether policies need to be changed – because nobody should be paying for an officer who isn’t there.

APD needs to investigate thoroughly, then be able to give a rigorous accounting of where officers are deployed and who is paying them, including Drobik and his supervisor. The community needs answers. Scapegoating simply isn’t the way to get them.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1304287/firing-officer-wont-fix-apd-overtime-accounting.html

DROBIK NOT THE ONLY ONE

The recent CPO Investigation found that in reviewing Chief’s Overtime slips, the names of many of the top earners in APD were on the same Chief’s Overtime assignments that Master Police Officer 1st Class and APD Spokesman Simon Drobik was on.

At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners at city hall.

The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1 to December 31 of any given year.

The listing of the city’s 250 top wage earners for the calendar year 2018 includes 124 APD sworn police as the top wage city hall wage earners, earning more than most department directors as well as the APD Chief and all of his Deputy Chiefs.

The list of 124 include patrol officers first class, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders the deputy chiefs, and the chief with annual pay for the year 2018 ranging from $101,000 a year up to $192,937 all under the Keller Administration.

Base yearly pay for sworn police, depending upon rank and years of experience, is $60,320 to $83,200.

The base pay does not include longevity bonus pay at the end of a year of between $2,600 to $15,600 contingent on years of experience.

Following is a breakdown of the numbers of police officers paid in excess of $100,000 in calendar year 2018 as a result of overtime paid:

6 police officers were paid $151,313 TO $192,000
24 police officers were paid $126,162.80 to $144,510.44.
27 police officers were paid $113,498.98 to $125,088.48
22 police officers were paid $109,315.89 to $112,516.27
25 police officers were paid $105,076.20 to $108,946.45
21 police officers were paid $101,633.11 to $104,987.69

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

Firing Drobik may not fix the APD overtime accounting like the Journal proclaims, but it sure the hell will send the very strong and very needed message that needs to be sent to the other 124 officers on the 250 city top wage earners, and whoever else there is, that the practice of “padding your wages” will not be tolerated under any circumstance.

No doubt Drobik’s termination, as well as his supervisor’s termination, will have a chilling affect on overtime pay abuses.

There is historical precedent when it comes to taking aggressive action to stop overtime abuse by police officers.

Years ago, APD Chief Bob Stover disbanded the entire APD DWI unit when he found out that they were “padding” their overtime.

APD Chief Bob Stover knew how to manage a police department, knew how important it was to keep the public trust when it came to stopping “waste, fraud and abuse” of taxpayer money.

Chief Bob Stover knew that police officers, by virtue of their oath of office, are held to a higher standard that is needed to keep credibility with the public.

The bedrock of that standard is that police officers must be 100% honest in their work performance and it is so critical to being a police officer that lying or perjury is grounds for termination.

Excessive overtime pay is simply not an “accounting problem”, but a practice that reflects upon the honesty and integrity of a police officer when they bill and get paid for not doing any work.

It is very disappointing that the Albuquerque Journal would say “scapegoating’ simply isn’t the way … to figure out how widespread the policy violations are and whether policies need to be changed” while at the same time it essentially ignored and failed to report that there are 124 others with excessive overtime.

Both Journal stories failed to report that the April 12, 2019 Police Oversight Agency investigative report made two major recommendations to deal with the problem of excessive overtime.

Following are the two recommendation:

1.“The City of Albuquerque should ask for another Audit of APD Overtime which will include and audit of the Chief’s Overtime Program. The audit should explore the actual cost to the City of the Chief’s Overtime program versus what the Chief’s overtime program brings in. The audit should cover how many officers take time off from their regularly scheduled duty to go work a Chief’s overtime during those same hours. The audit should also explore whether or not another officer had to be called in on overtime to handle the off-duty officer’s duties on that shift on that day because the staffing level was below the 70% threshold. Lastly, the audit should determine whether or not the Chief’s Overtime Program violates the Anti-Donation Clause of the State of New Mexico.” (April 12, 2019 Police Oversight Investigation report, page 10.)

2. “APD should immediately revise its policy on overtime. Officers should be limited to working no more than 25 hours per week of overtime and that is inclusive of all overtime. The policy should prohibit officers from taking comp time or vacation from their regularly assigned duties for the sole purpose of working a chief’s Overtime assignment. APD supervisors, prior to approving a leave request, should be required to check with the Chiefs Overtime Program to make sure that the officer is not signed up for Chief’s Overtime and/or they are not taking leave to go to work a Chief’s Overtime assignment during the very same hours they are scheduled to work their assigned shift. Officers should be prohibited from working Chief’s Overtime if they are in an “on call” status. The policy should reflect any recommendations that were made by the City Auditor. Lastly, the policy should be vigorously enforced and adhered to by all APD personnel.” (April 12, 2019, Police Oversight Investigation report, page 11.)

When Tim Keller was New Mexico State Auditor, he became the “white knight” champion to find and stop “waste, fraud and abuse” of taxpayer money by government officials and employees. Keller’s audits garnered him extensive news coverage that no doubt played a major role in getting him elected Mayor.

Mayor Keller now needs to take action and order his police chief to do the same thing to stop “waste, fraud and abuse” by government employees, other wise Mayor Keller will be viewed as being not in charge and unwilling to get control of his police department.

Keller needs to “walk the talk” himself and put a stop to any “waste, fraud and abuse” when it comes to APD overtime within the very city government he now heads. A good start would be for Keller to order the implementation of the two recommendations made by the Police Oversight Agency investigation.

Another action that would clearly stop “overtime abuse” would be for Mayor Keller to order as a condition of work or return to work, the Drobik or any other police who is found to have over-billed, refund of all the overtime paid during the time an officer is doing two jobs at once and being paid twice in violation of APD standard operating procedures.

Mayor Tim Keller can and should refer the entire CPO Investigative report to the Bernalillo County District Attorney or the Attorney General and allow them to determine if there is “no evidence of possible criminal activity by any of the parties investigated” as was found by the Police Oversight Agency investigation.

POSTCRIPT

For two related article see:

TV News Stations Shirk Their Responsibility To Protect APD Mouthpiece

APD Spokesman Drobik’s $192,973 Overtime Pay Tip Of Iceberg; “Denied Access” Reason Media Reluctant To Report; Where Is Our Champion To Combat “Waste, Fraud and Abuse” Mayor Tim Keller?

Auto Theft Suppression Paying Off; Auto Theft Declines

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.

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

LAW ENFORCEMENT RESPONDS

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

On March 21, 2018, a little more than a year ago, it was announced that APD, BCSO, NMSP 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 includes 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.

APD for the past year has been concentrating on auto theft sting operations with assistance from BCSO and NMSP. In 2018, APD’s first auto theft sting 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.

BCSO auto theft unit and its “Fugitive Apprehension & Surveillance Team” have assisted APD and the NMSP with joint operations.

In late 2017, the New Mexico Office of Superintendent of Insurance organized a metro area task force to identify repeat auto thieves. During the 2018 legislative session, legislation was enacted and signed into law giving the office authority to investigate and prosecute auto thefts.

In February 2018, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez created a team of 10 attorneys to solely focus on prosecuting car thieves. According to officials with the DA’s office, it targets defendants with multiple arrests in order to more efficiently prosecute cases. Prior to the changes in the DAs office, if a defendant had several cases against pending against them, different attorneys would be assigned to each one. Now, one prosecutor follows all of a defendant’s car theft cases.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/03/15/da-torrez-takes-credit-for-lowering-crime-rates-and-ignores-apd-bcso-and-nmsp/

RESOURCES DEDICATED TO AUTO THEFT

All three law enforcement agencies have dedicated a considerable amount of resource to deal with auto thefts as has the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance Auto Theft Team and the Bernalillo county District Attorney’s Office.

The APD Auto theft Unit consists of 7 detectives, 1 sergeant and 1 lieutenant. In early 2018, APD began hiring paralegals to help APD Detectives compile all the necessary paperwork needed for a complete a final offense report file forwarded to the District Attorneys Office.

The BCSO Auto Theft Unit consists of 5 detectives, 1 sergeant and 1 lieutenant.

The NMSP Auto Suppression Unit consists of 3 detectives, 1 sergeant and 1 lieutenant. Prior to February 2018, before the joint law enforcement effort to combat auto theft, the State Police did not have a unit dedicated specifically to auto theft.

The New Mexico Office of Insurance Auto Theft Team consists of 6 agents, 2 prosecutors and 2 paralegals.

The 10 prosecutors with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office work with APD, BCSO, NMSP and the New Mexico Office of Insurance Auto Theft Team.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1302964/tackling-albuquerques-auto-theft-problem.html

DAILY PATROLS INITIATED

On a daily basis, APD’s auto theft detectives are joined by a NMSP Sergeant and 3 New Mexico State Police officers assigned to the NMSP auto theft suppression unit.

APD dispatches 7 auto theft detectives to patrol the streets and APD has doubled the number of bait cars they use in the last year. APD has also reported conducting 35% more traffic stops in 2018 than in 2017.

The joint law enforcement teams patrol areas identified by APD’s “Real Time Crime Center” each week as hot spots for stolen and recovered vehicles. APD also partners with the BCSO auto theft unit to conduct tactical plans targeting certain areas of the city and identified repeat offenders.

INCREASING AND DECLINING AUTO THEFT STATISTICS

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

From 2013 to 2017, Albuquerque saw more than a three-fold increase in auto theft along with climbing rates of armed robbery, larceny and burglary.

More than 20 vehicles were being stolen each day in 2016 and 2017.

In 2016 more than 10,000 vehicles were stolen in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County combined or more than 27 vehicles a day. In 2016, Albuquerque accounted for approximately 65% of the stolen vehicles in the state with the city having about 30% of the state’s total population.

In 2017, the number of auto thefts reported was 7,684, which was slightly down from 2016 when 7,710 vehicles were stolen.

The APD preliminary count for 2018 is down to 5,447 auto thefts.

According to statistics released by APD and the NMSP, the number of cases generated and handled by APD and NMSP in 2018 was 200 auto theft cases with 154 felony arrests and 136 stolen vehicles recovered.

The statistics released by APD and the NMSP for the first quarter of 2019 reflect 85 auto theft cases generated with 77 felony arrests and 68 stolen vehicles recovered.

In the first quarter of 2019, APD reported that there were 28% fewer auto thefts, a total of 1,787, than in the same period in 2018, when there were 2,482.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

On March 30, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department released the City’s crime statistics for the first quarter of 2019 which runs from January to March of 2019.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/apd-most-crime-is-down-but-non-fatal-shootings-are-up/5299172/?cat=500

https://www.abqjournal.com/1298419/crime-stats-show-another-drop-in-abq-crime.html

For the second time, APD reported that crime is continuing to drop from the 10 years of historic highs in all major categories except nonfatal shootings which are up.

Property crimes, robberies, auto thefts and auto burglaries all dropped.

Auto theft decreased by 29%, auto burglary decreased by 28%, and residential burglary decreased by 32% compared to last year’s numbers during the same time period.

Property crimes, like theft and burglaries, had a 17% drop from 2017 to 2018 for the same time period last year.

The decline represents a significant decrease to the numbers reported last year.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/04/01/abqs-crime-rates-continue-to-decline-apd-should-target-domestic-violence/

All taxpayers and voters of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and the State of New Mexico pay for, in one form or another, to maintain APD, BCSO, the NMSP, the DA’s Office and the New Mexico Office of Insurance.

Government agencies in one form or another are in constant competition with each other for personnel, funding and resources from the State and Federal governments. Usually law enforcement agencies are highly territorial in many respects and that is to be expected and needs to be respected given the nature of law enforcement.

There are many times that three agencies of APD, BCSO and NMSP 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 all the agencies work together, exchange data and coordinate resources for a common goal, without concern the big winners are always the citizens and voters. 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 has been a major step in reducing our out of control auto theft rates.

If the statistics now being reported on auto thefts are any indication of what can be accomplished with cooperation between all the agencies, the city should see even further decline in the number of auto thefts and successful prosecutions.

Notwithstanding, auto thefts are still too high. When your car gets stolen or you are a victim of a crime, you will not believe the statistics reported and the numbers will mean absolutely nothing to you.

For more are cities decline crime rates see:

ABQ’s Crime Rates Going Down, But ABQ Still A Violent City

Four Very Violent Days In A Violent City; APD Declares Violent Crime As “Public Health Issue”

TV News Stations Shirk Their Responsibility To Protect APD Mouthpiece

TV News stations and newspapers all have slogans, and in Albuquerque, there are no exceptions

In Albuquerque, those slogans are:

“KOB stands 4 New Mexico” for Channel 4.
“Coverage You Can Count On” for Channel 7.
“Local Reporting You Can Trust” for Channel 13.
“New Mexico’s Leading News Source” for The Albuquerque Journal.

Hell, even politicians like to use “catch phases” like Mayor Tim Keller and his “ABQ One” slogan.

As State Auditor, Tim Keller proclaimed he fought against “waste, fraud, and abuse” of taxpayer money by government officials and employees. When he ran for Mayor, Keller even said he was “walking the talk” when it came to public finance when everyone knew that a former campaign manager of his set up and independent finance committee and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on his behalf.

One thing is for certain, all the major news outlets really do not stand up to their own slogans for their news reporting, apparently for the sake of protecting their news sources.

What we are not all certain about is if Mayor Keller still wants to fight “waste, fraud and abuse” and if he is willing to “walk the talk” to stop “waste, fraud, and abuse” of taxpayer money within City Hall and his police department.

The most recent stories that reflect the news media and the Mayor’s failure to stand up to their slogans are the recommended firings of APD Public Information Officer Simon Drobik and his supervisor and the chronic overtime paid to police officers.

The big question that needs to be answered is WHY?

THE NEWS STORY

There were two Albuquerque Journal front page stories regarding the $192,973 compensation paid in 2018 to APD Master Police Officer 1st Class and APD Spokesman Simon Drobik.

You can review both stories here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1302312/dismissal-of-spokesman-urged.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/1302650/apd-reviewing-oversight-report-into-spokesmans-pay.html

On Friday, April 12, 2019, it was reported that the APD Civilian Police Oversight Board voted to recommend the dismissal of APD Master Police Officer 1st Class and Public Information Officer Simon Drobik as well as his former supervisor for overtime pay abuse.

The CPO Agency investigation found that in 2018, Drobik was paid $192,973 making him Albuquerque’s highest-paid city employee in 2018.

The CPO investigation also found that his supervisor was also one of the city’s top 11 paid wage earners.

The investigation found that throughout 2018 Drobik violated overtime and pay policies more than 50 times by getting paid simultaneously for being on call as a spokesman for APD and working “chief’s overtime” and paid time and a half stationed at local businesses.

The April 12, 2019 Police Oversight investigative report made two major recommendations that the Journal failed to report on in any great detail:

1. “The City of Albuquerque should ask for another Audit of APD Overtime which will include and audit of the Chief’s Overtime Program. The audit should explore the actual cost to the City of the Chief’s Overtime program versus what the Chief’s overtime program brings in. The audit should cover how many officers take time off from their regularly scheduled duty to go work a Chief’s overtime during those same hours. The audit should also explore whether or not another officer had to be called in on overtime to handle the off-duty officer’s duties on that shift on that day because the staffing level was below the 70% threshold. Lastly, the audit should determine whether or not the Chief’s Overtime Program violates the Anti-Donation Clause of the State of New Mexico.” (April 12, 2019 Police Oversight Investigation report, page 10.)

2. “APD should immediately revise its policy on overtime. Officers should be limited to working no more than 25 hours per week of overtime and that is inclusive of all overtime. The policy should prohibit officers from taking comp time or vacation from their regularly assigned duties for the sole purpose of working a chief’s Overtime assignment. APD supervisors, prior to approving a leave request, should be required to check with the Chiefs Overtime Program to make sure that the officer is not signed up for Chief’s Overtime and/or they are not taking leave to go to work a Chief’s Overtime assignment during the very same hours they are scheduled to work their assigned shift. Officers should be prohibited from working Chief’s Overtime if they are in an “on call” status. The policy should reflect any recommendations that were made by the City Auditor. Lastly, the policy should be vigorously enforced and adhered to by all APD personnel.” (April 12, 2019, Police Oversight Investigation report, page 11.)

THE TV NEWS COVERAGE

The Albuquerque Journal with its two front page stories is the only news agency that reported extensively on the police oversight agency investigation, the $192,973 compensation paid Simon Drobik, and the POB voting to recommend that Drobik be terminated along with his supervisor.

Not to be outdone by the Albuquerque Journal, on Friday, April 12, 2019, Channel 13 did a very short report on the CPO recommendation to fire Drobik which was in apparent response to the first Albuquerque Journal article in the morning paper, but Channel 13 failed to report in any great detail on the two CPO recommendations and failed to report on the fact that 125 police officers were paid in excess of $100,000 in 2018.

You can view the Channel 13 report here:

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/cpoa-recommends-dismmissal-of-apd-spokesman/1922005778

Notwithstanding the Albuquerque Journal being on top of the story, the Journal and all 3 TV News stations, have totally ignored and have not even attempted to report on a very serious and the too prevailing practices within APD: 1) police officers are “billing” the city so much overtime that 125 of those officers are now in the top 250 list of paid city hall employee’s and 2) some officers being paid 2, 3, and 4 times their base pay, with no questions asked.

In March of 2017, things got so bad with the payment of APD overtime that a city internal audit report revealed that the Albuquerque Police Department spent $3.9 million over its “overtime” budget resulting $13 million paid in overtime when the actual budget was $9 million.

The audit found that too often, officers did not follow the rules when it came to get overtime pre-approved or didn’t properly submit overtime documents for “grant funded” traffic over time.

According to the audit, there were potentially 38,000 cases of unapproved overtime that occurred during fiscal year 2016 based on a sampling of time cards.

For related stories see:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2018/03/30/apd-overtime-pay-abuse-and-recruitment-tool/

https://www.petedinelli.com/2017/09/20/associated-press-story-on-apd-police-overtime/

The recent CPO Investigation found that in reviewing Chief’s Overtime slips, the names of many of the top earners in APD were on the same Chief’s Overtime assignments that Master Police Officer 1st Class and APD Spokesman Simon Drobik were on.

At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners at city hall.

The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1 to December 31 of any given year.

The listing of the city’s 250 top wage earners for the calendar year 2018 includes 125 APD sworn police as the top wage city hall wage earners, earning more than most department directors as well as the APD Chief and all of his Deputy Chiefs.

The list of 125 include patrol officers first class, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders the deputy chiefs, and the chief with annual pay for the year 2018 ranging from $101,000 a year up to $192,937 all under the Keller Administration.

Base yearly pay for sworn police, depending upon rank and years of experience, is $60,320 to $83,200.

The base pay does not include longevity bonus pay at the end of a year of between $2,600 to $15,600 contingent on years of experience.

Following is a breakdown of the 125 police officers paid in excess of $100,000 in calendar year 2018 as a result of overtime paid:

6 police officers were paid $151,313 TO $192,000
24 police officers were paid $126,162.80 to $144,510.44.
27 police officers were paid $113,498.98 to $125,088.48
22 police officers were paid $109,315.89 to $112,516.27
25 police officers were paid $105,076.20 to $108,946.45
21 police officers were paid $101,633.11 to $104,987.69

TV NEWS STATIONS COVERAGE IGNORE APD OVERTIME ABUSE

On October 18, 2018, the online news outlet “ABQ Reports” published an article by retired APD Officer Dan Klein.

You can read the ABQ Report on line article here:

https://www.abqreport.com/single-post/2018/10/18/Why-is-Chief-Geier-Hiding-Behind-a-PIO

Part of the October 18, 2018 Klein news article was based upon a phone conversation with a local female TV reporter who defended PIO Simon Drobik because he gave them “access” to news stories.

According to Klein, the reporter knew Simon Drobik would claim 2 hours of overtime every time a reporter called him, no matter how long the phone interview lasted.
Quoting the October 18, 2018 ABQ Report article:

“When the original story on Drobik’s earnings came out I was told by a local reporter that since Drobik is a PIO he clocks “EVERY SINGLE INTERVIEW HE GETS CALLED FOR. THAT INCLUDES PHONE CALLS WITH THE MEDIA This reporter stated that Drobik is called multiple times a day and that this is where his tremendous overtime earnings come from.”

The ABQ Report as to where Drobik’s tremendous overtime earnings come from should come as no surprise to anyone.

It is common knowledge among government officials and elected officials that news reporters develop sources and friendship’s in order to establish a working relationship with them to get news leads and confidential source information on news stories. There are times that elected officials will go so far as hiring news reporters.

The previous Republican Mayor Administration employed a Channel 4 news reporter as the Mayor’s Public Information Officer who later returned to Channel 4 as an investigative reporter, employed a former Albuquerque Journal reporter for 8 years who later became the “Real Time Crime Center Director” and then went to work for Channel 7 as an investigative report news director, and a former Chief Public Safety Officer was employed as a news reporter at Channel 13.

PIO Simon Drobik is a news source and it is common knowledge at city hall and with APD sources that he has developed very good relations with many TV news reporters.
More than a few confidential sources are saying Drobik has become way too close to a few of the reporters.

It is a common practice among elected officials, government officials and public information officers to actually deny access to reporters when they want to “stone wall” a story in order to kill a damaging story.

High ranking officials with the previous Republican Mayor Administration, including the Chief Administrative Officer, were known to threaten news reporters.

The previous Republican Mayor Administration was also known for denying news reporters access to city information and interviews and known to give preferential treatment to certain news agencies over others because of their personal contacts and prior employment relationships with news directors for the stations.

There has been absolutely no or very little reporting by TV news stations Channels 4, 7 and 13 regarding the Police Oversight Board Agency Investigation and the Police Oversight Board voting to unanimously to recommend that PIO Simon Drobik be fired.

Further, the TV news stations Channels 4, 7 and 13 have made no reports on the extent of police overtime paid.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The single most likely reason that there has been no TV news coverage of the APD overtime story is it that the news stations and their reporters are concerned that they will be denied access to information by APD and its PIO’s regarding the news crime stories that dominate their news casts that is vital to their TV news ratings.

When Tim Keller was New Mexico State Auditor, he became the “white knight” champion to find and stop “waste, fraud and abuse” of taxpayer money by government officials and employees.

As State Auditor, Keller went so far as to create a “fraud investigation unit” hiring investigators to ferret out waste, fraud and abuse by government officials and employees. Keller’s audits of state and city governments garnered him extensive press coverage and public support that no doubt helped with his successful campaign to become Mayor of Albuquerque.

Keller became Mayor less than two years after being elected State Auditor and resigned with two years left in his term as auditor.

Mayor Keller is given credit for asking for the investigation of Drobik’s overtime, but he needs to do more than make a referral and do public relations.

Mayor Keller now needs to take action and order his police chief to do the same thing, other wise Mayor Keller will be viewed as being not in charge and unwilling to get control of his police department.

There is historical precedent when it comes to taking aggressive action to stop overtime abuse by police officers.

Years ago, APD Chief Bob Stover disbanded the entire APD DWI unit when he found out that they were “padding” their overtime.

APD Chief Bob Stover knew how to manage a police department, knew how important it was to keep the public trust when it came to stopping “waste, fraud and abuse” of taxpayer money.

All the Mayor’s Chief Stover worked for trusted him, they knew he would do the right thing, they would listen to him and let him do his job by not letting politics interfere with the management of the department.

Mayor Keller now needs to “walk the talk” himself and put a stop to any “waste, fraud and abuse” when it comes to APD overtime within the very city government he now heads.

Keller cannot be involved in personnel decisions for classified employees like Drobik, but he damn well sure can order the recommended audits, put a cap of 25 hours on overtime and order the complete revamping of APD overtime policies.

Mayor Keller may be reluctant to order the total and complete revamping of APD overtime policies given the fact that he was endorsed by the police union and probably still feels indebted to the union and will want the unions support when he runs for reelection in 2021.

One action that would clearly stop “overtime abuse” would be for Mayor Keller to order as a condition of work or return to work, that Drobik or any other police officer who is found to have over billed, refund of all the overtime paid during the time an officer is doing two jobs at once and being paid twice in violation of APD standard operating procedures.

Further, Mayor Tim Keller can and should refer the entire CPO Investigative report to the Bernalillo County District Attorney or the Attorney General and allow them to determine if there is “no evidence of possible criminal activity by any of the parties investigated” as was found by the Police Oversight Agency investigation.

Until Mayor Keller takes real action to get a handle on APD’s out of control overtime billing, voters can expect to pay upwards of $14 million dollars in overtime a year to a select group of APD officers, and probably favored few like Simon Drobik

Notwithstanding, no one should hold their breath that news coverage is going to get any better in the city, let alone any one of the news outlets will rise to the true meanings and level of their slogans, but then again hope does spring eternal.

For further Analysis and Commentary see:

APD Spokesman Drobik’s $192,973 Overtime Pay Tip Of Iceberg; “Denied Access” Reason Media Reluctant To Report; Where Is Our Champion To Combat “Waste, Fraud and Abuse” Mayor Tim Keller?