On January 10, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal reported that “NM Once Again No. 1 In Fatal Police Shootings”.
Following are excerpts from the lengthy article worth noting:
“For the fourth year in a row, New Mexico placed either first or second in the nation for its rate of deadly shootings by law enforcement officers, according to the Fatal Force database created by The Washington Post.
In 2018, New Mexico ranked first in the nation, finishing the year with 20 fatal shootings by police officers around the state, a rate of 9.59 per 1 million people.
Alaska – with 7 total fatal police shootings – was a close second, with a rate of 9.5 fatal police shootings per 1 million people. Connecticut had the smallest number of fatal police shootings – 0.
Over the past four years – dating back to 2015, when the Post began keeping a database of fatal police shootings – New Mexico has either been first or second in the nation, with a rate between nine and 11 people killed per million.
In 2017, the state came in as No. 2, behind Alaska, but it was first in the nation in 2016. In 2015 New Mexico was in second place, behind Wyoming.
A total of 995 fatal police shootings were reported across the country in 2018, according to The Washington Post. The numbers have changed little over the past four years.
Maj. Tim Johnson, head of the New Mexico State Police investigations bureau, said he believes the high rates of crime here have a lot to do with it. For the past several years, New Mexico has experienced increases in violent and property crime, and it was first or second for crime rates in 2016 and 2017.
“The public becomes alarmed, and they have an expectation on their servants – law enforcement – to figure out ways to slow that down,” Johnson said. “As we attempt to slow that down by effecting an arrest or serving a warrant, investigating cases, we are coming into contact with violent people on a more regular basis than we have in the past.”
More than half of the police shootings in the state occurred in larger cities last year.
The Washington Post began tracking police shootings around the country after the high-profile death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. The team gathers data – including details about each killing – from local news reports, law enforcement agency websites, social media and independent databases and then does additional reporting in many cases.”
You can read the lengthy Albuquerque Journal article here:
STATE AND CITY CRIME STATISTICS
On Monday, September 24, 2018 the FBI released its “Crime in the United States” report providing the statistics on all the crimes reportedly committed in Albuquerque and New Mexico in 2017.
Since 2010, violent felony crime rates and property crime rates have steadily increased in Albuquerque and in New Mexico.
According to the FBI report, the increase in crime in both New Mexico and Albuquerque continued in 2017.
CRIME RATE STATISTICS FOR 2016 AND 2017
Statewide New Mexico, violent crime rates rose by 12 percent and property crime rates were up by 0.5 percent in 2017.
The FBI reported that New Mexico had 16,359 violent crimes reported and 82,306 property crimes reported in 2017.
All the statistics for New Mexico and Albuquerque are in sharp contrast with national trends that crime is going down in the United States as a whole.
According to the FBI report summary, in 2015 and 2016, violent crime had been increasing across the United States but in 2017, violent crime decreased 0.2% with the overall rate falling 0.9% percent.
In the United States as a whole, the property crime rates dropped for the 15th straight year, decreasing by 3% across the country.
Nationally, the crime rate is 383 violent offenses per 100,000 residents and 2,362 property crimes per 100,000 residents.
Albuquerque’s violent crime and property crime rates are more than triple the national crime rates.
ABQ’S PROPERTY CRIME DOWN, NON-FATAL SHOOTINGS UP
On December 27, 2018, Albuquerque’s crime statistics for the entire year of 2018 were released.
Albuquerque had its very first decrease in overall crime in 8 years in 2018.
Review of the city’s crime statistics for the entire year of 2018 show the largest decreases in the property crimes of auto burglary (-29%), auto theft (-31%), commercial burglary (-17 percent) and residential burglary (-18%) and robbery fell by 36%.
Despite the decline in property crime rates, non-fatal shootings increased by 5% as follows:
2017: 470 (First 6 months: 60)
2018: 491 (First 6 months: 63)
Change: +4 (First 6 months: +5.0%)
Aggravated assaults under the law are assaults with deadly weapons.
In 2017, there were 4,213 aggravated assaults reported in the city and in 2018, there were 3,885 aggravated assaults representing an 8% decline.
The number of homicides in the city the last 2 years, although down, were still high as follows:
2017: 75 (First 6 months: 33)
2018: 66 (First 6 months:39)
Change: -10% (First 6 months -18.2%)
In March of 2018, 5 homicides were reported in six days.
Although Albuquerque’s 2018 crime statistics show a decline in property crime rates in Albuquerque, a one-year decline does not make a trend.
Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research and Evaluation Center of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, warns that Albuquerque police and local leaders should be cautious and not take the decreases in crime for granted when he said:
“A one-year trend, it’s not actionable. There’s no policy relevance to that … The numbers, they fluctuate, and the only thing you can do is interpret trends over time. Five years in a row of decreases, or increases, is something to pay attention to [ as evidence crime is going down in a community].”
ABQ’s MURDER RATE
In 2017, the city broke the all-time homicide rate of 70 with 72 murders and this year in 2018 there were 66 murders.
In December, 2018, 2 police officer deadly force shootings occurred in less than 24 hours.
In 2018, nonfatal shootings went up 4% from 470 to 491 shootings.
There were 6 more murders in the first quarter of 2018 compared with 2017 which was a 50% increase.
Non-fatal shootings for the first quarter of 2018 had a 0% change from 2017, but increased by +5% for the first half of 2018.
A total of 66 homicides occurred in Albuquerque in 2018.
In March of 2018, 5 homicides were reported in just six days.
In December, 2018, 2 police officer deadly force shootings occurred in less than 24 hours.
In 2018, 45 of the killings, or 68% of the homicides, were from gun violence.
The 66 homicides in 2018 were a 12% decrease from 2017’s 75 homicides, but that number is still 8% higher than 2016 where 61 homicides were reported.
The 2018 year-end, although down, is still one of the highest in recent history and does not include the seven fatal shootings by police.
The 2018 figure also does it include the nine that were determined to be justifiable homicides, which is nearly doubled from 2017.
Although Albuquerque recorded its first drop in homicides in 2018, it still followed a dramatic spike in homicides over the previous 3 years.
Albuquerque finished 2018 with a homicide rate of 11.82 per 100,000 people.
In comparison, Tucson, Arizona with around 20,000 fewer people, tallied 53 homicides in 2018 for a rate of 8.78 per 100,000.
El Paso, Texas, with around 130,000 more people, had 17 homicides for a rate of 2.46 per 100,000.
CITY BEGINS 2019 EXPERIENCING MAYHEM AND MURDER
The January 17, 2019 front page Albuquerque Journal headline said it all:
“Albuquerque police deal with a day of mayhem”
Since the beginning of the New Year and during the first 16 days of January, 2019 there were 6 persons killed including 3 that involved domestic violence cases.
On January 16, 2019, it was reported that an 11-day old infant was found dead at a detox center, a woman died from domestic violence on the city’s west side and two men were killed, one shot and killed in broad daylight near Old Town.
APD HOMICIDE UNIT HAS HISTORY OF BOTCHED INVESTIGATIONS
According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City Budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%, in 2017 the clearance rate was 70% and the clearance rate for 2018 was 56%.
In the past few years, it has been reported that the APD Homicide Unit has botched any number of high-profile murder investigations.
The APD Homicide Unit has compiled a history of not doing complete investigations, misleading the public, feeding confessions to people with low IQs, getting investigations completely wrong and even arresting innocent people.
For more on APD’s high profile murder cases see:
The most egregious was the murder investigation of 10-year-old Victoria Martens who was murdered, dismembered and whose body was burned in a bathtub.
The initial APD Homicide alleged that it was Jessica Kelley that stabbed 9-year-old Victoria Martens and that Fabian Gonzales strangled her while Michelle Martens, the child’s mother, watched the murder.
It was later revealed that Jessica Kelley did not murder the child.
Michelle Martens falsely admitted to committing the crimes when forensic evidence revealed she and her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales were not even in the apartment at the time of the murder, they did not participate in the murder and that there is an unidentified 4th suspect in the case the committed the murder.
A CAREER PATH TO BECOME HOMICIDE DETECTIVE
During the July 12, 2018 regular meeting of the City’s Police Oversight Board, APD Chief Michael Geier made a presentation regarding the practices and methods used to hire and train APD Homicide Detectives.
Chief Geier made the stunning admission that has been believed to be true for years by outside observers of the Albuquerque Police Department:
“In the past, I regret to say this, but sometimes if you’re friends with someone that’s served in units, you have an inside track.”
Outsider observers would call the Chief’s comments the admission of a “good ol’ boy” system for transfers and promotions.
To his credit, APD Chief Geier told the Police Oversight Board that he was establishing a career path of training to become a homicide detective.
According to Geier, the ultimate goal is to implement a process for a more formal and structured, definitive career path for APD Detectives.
A career path approach will require officers to take “prerequisites” and training courses before they can even apply to be a detective.
According to APD Chief Geier:
“The idea is not to just take people out of the blue and place them in these assignments, we want to prepare them so they are well trained and not an expedited process, but one that they’ve earned. … We want to build their skill set from the first time they become a detective to when they leave their career and retire. … So hopefully it’s a lifetime path so that they don’t lose that experience and we have a better chance at serving [the] public. … This is the plan for the future. … The goal is that we build a quality career path.”
After more than six months, APD Chief Geier has yet to announce what progress he has made in establishing a career path to become an APD Homicide Detective.
As a result of the increase in homicides and the number of unsolved murder cases pending, the Homicide Unit has been increased from 5 full time detectives to 10 full time detectives.
Confidential sources report that APD is in the final stages of hiring someone in the private sector with past extensive law enforcement experience on a contract to train the homicide unit in an effort to address APD’s low clearance rate.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Although it is disturbing that New Mexico is ranked number one nationally again in police officer shootings, it should not come as any surprise given the state and city high crime rates.
Murder rates and violent crime rates should never be confused.
Violent crime rates involve any number of types of violent crimes including armed robbery (residential and commercial), aggravated assaults, aggravated batteries, rape and domestic violence with victims surviving.
Homicides involve just one category: a dead victim.
What also should come as no surprise is that of the 20 police officer involved killings in 2018, 9 people were killed in Albuquerque, 3 people in Las Cruces, and the rest in small towns and cities around the state.
There is far more crime in the larger cities of Albuquerque and Las Cruces than “small town” New Mexico.
The reduction in Albuquerque’s crime rates should have a ripple effect on reducing police officer involved shootings, especially with the Department of Justice reforms placing an emphasis in “de-escalation tactics” and crisis intervention methods, but it is still going to take time.
Notwithstanding the reduction in most categories of crime in 2018 for the first time in 9 years, a one-year decline does not make a trend.
Albuquerque is still way too violent for a city the size of Albuquerque.
Given the violent crime statistics for 2018 and with the way the New Year 2019 has started, it is more likely than not that New Mexico will once again wind up being number one again in fatal police shootings and continued high homicide rates and a low APD clearance rate.
APD finally getting around to hiring and outside expert to teach and train homicide investigation techniques cannot come soon enough, not when the unit has a 56% clearance rate.