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:
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)
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.
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.
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.
Following are links to related blog articles: