Stolen Cars Only Tip Of Iceberg For A Violent City

On March 11, 2018 Albuquerque Journal did a front-page story entitled “STOLEN CARS fuel ABQ crime wave; Police: Crooks frequently use stolen vehicles for crimes ranging from armed robbery to drive-by shootings”.

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 reported.

Last year, that number 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.

The APD auto theft unit has less than 10 assigned detectives with each having well over 100 open cases.


Violent felons using stolen vehicles for armed robbery to drive-by shootings is really not news and has been going on for years in a city that is as violent as Albuquerque.

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

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

The dramatic increase in 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 crime.

During the last six years, or since 2012, Albuquerque’s crime rates have steadily increased.

In June, 2017, the National Insurance Crime Bureau named Albuquerque “the auto theft capital of the nation.”

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

Albuquerque’s steady dramatic increase in crime rates corresponds to the decrease in the size of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) over the last eight (8) years.

In 2010, APD was fully staffed and funded for 1,100 sworn police officers.

In 2018, APD is budgeted for 1,000 officers but has only 845 full-time, sworn personnel.

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.

Albuquerque’s crime rates have steadily increase each year for the last eight (8) years.


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

(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.

Currently, there are only five homicide detectives, with three in training, and a sergeant, that are currently investing the 75 murders.

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.

The Homicide Investigation Unit needs to be at least 15 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.


According to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) statistics, the total number of violent crimes in Albuquerque dipped two years and then steadily increased as follows:

2010 – 4,291
2011 – 4,207
2012 – 4,151
2013 – 4,323
2014 – 4,934
2015 – 5,409

According to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, from 2009 to 2015, Albuquerque’s violent crime rate increased by 21.5%.

Murders spiked in Albuquerque by over 50% from 30 murders in 2014 to 46 murders in 2015.

According to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics, in the last eight (8) years, Albuquerque has become the is fifth-most violent city in the country on a per capita basis while the nation’s violent crime rate dropped by 13.7%.


Albuquerque has become number one in the nation for auto thefts.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s latest Hot Spots report shows Albuquerque and of Bernalillo County as the worst place in the nation when it comes to auto theft per capita.

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

According to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) statistics, the total number of property crimes in Albuquerque has steadily increased each year during the last six (6) years as follows:

2010 – 26,493
2011 – 28,109
2012 – 29,804
2013 – 30,614
2014 – 30,523
2015 – 34,082

In 2015, APD made 9,049 felony arrests, 22,639 misdemeanor arrests, 2,213 DWI arrests, and 2,552 domestic violence arrests.

In 2016, APD made 8,744 felony arrests, 19,857 misdemeanor arrests, 1,070 DWI arrests, and 2,462 domestic violence arrests.

In 2016, field service officers responded to 546,550 calls for service with a priority 1 response time of 11 minutes, 35 seconds which is approximately two minutes over the national standard.

(Source: 2017-2018 City of Albuquerque Proposed budget)


The Bernalillo County District Attorney Office has a misdemeanor division with approximately 25 Assistant District Attorney’s assigned to the division who are responsible for prosecuting cases that mandate a court record.

In 2009, there were 746 people arraigned for felony DWI and that number dropped to a mere 104 in 2015.

In 2008, there were 6,538 people arraigned for misdemeanor DWI and in 2015 that number dropped by close to 60% to 2,942.

In 2010, the APD traffic unit had more than 34 officers and today there are less than 12.


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 2010, APD response times had been brought down below the national average and crime rates were hitting historical lows.

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

From 2010 to 2014, the city council fully funded 1,100 positions despite the mass exodus of sworn police and the APD Police Academy’s failure to recruit and keep up with retirements.

Three years ago, the City Council voted to reduce funding from 1,100 sworn officers to 1,000 sworn officers because of the Berry Administration’s failure to recruit and keep up with retirements.

In 2017, response times went to historical highs with calls to APD taking hours instead of minutes to respond threatening public safety.

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.

Given the volume of felony arrests and cases, APD is severely understaffed to complete felony investigations.

A December 11, 2015 Albuquerque Police Department Comprehensive Staffing Assessment and Resource Study concluded that APD needs at least 1,000 sworn officers.


The 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 crime rates.

At this point in time, the number one priority should be addressing and rebuilding APD rank and file.

Until APD is fully staffed, Albuquerque can expect more stolen cars used to commit violent crimes.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.