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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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”

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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.