The April 29, 2019 Albuquerque Journal front page headline in red letters read “IN BERNALILLO COUTY” followed by “114 people shot in 112 days” in black letters.
Below the headline was a color photo of two of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) Mobile Crime labs used to investigate homicide scenes and gather evidence. Below the photo of the APD Mobile Crime Labs was a color photo of 47-year-old Jose Hernandez, dressed in his military uniform. Jose Hernandez is the US Mail Carrier who was shot and killed on his postal route allegedly by a 17-year-old in the Southwest Albuquerque when he intervened in a fight between a mother and her teenage son. The 17-year-old suspect has been arrested. Hernandez was one of 4 people shot, with 3 killed, in a 24 hour period.
KOAT TV Channel 7 had the same lead story headline: “… 100 Shooting in 112 days.”
The Journal reported that with the killing of Jose Hernandez, Bernalillo County surpassed 100 shootings for the year. Jose Hernandez was the 114-person shot and killed since January 1, 2019 and a mere 112 days into the year.
The January 17, 2019 front page Albuquerque Journal headline read:
“Albuquerque Police Deal With A Day Of Mayhem”
According to the January 17, 2019 report:
“There were two homicides – one of which sparked an all-day manhunt in the Bosque. An infant died at a county-run substance abuse treatment center. A person was shot in the leg in the northeast area. And officers conducted a search for a stolen vehicle suspect off East Central. … Traffic was snarled for hours at the Central river crossing due to the manhunt in the Bosque. Tingley Beach and other parts of the Albuquerque BioPark were put on lockdown, according to police. The nearby Dolores Gonzales Elementary School canceled all after-school programs and bus services because of the search. … [S]hortly before 8 a.m., officers were called to a shooting in front of Central Grill and Coffee House on Central near Rio Grande Boulevard and the Old Town community police substation. “Upon arrival, they observed rescue attending to a male who had been shot. … Rescue immediately transported the subject to the hospital, where he was subsequently pronounced dead from a gunshot wound.”
The news headlines for April 4, 5, 6 and 7, 2019 included reports of eight dead, including a child of 5 beaten to death by her father with a rubber shoe and an 8-year-old girl was shot and critically injured in a Northeast Albuquerque home from a stray bullet, all in four days.
The news stories for the four days in April were:
Thursday, April 4, 2019, Carlos Armijo, 42, was gunned down outside his South Valley home; Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies say it was retaliation after a fight outside a taco truck.
Friday, April 5, 2019, morning, first respondents found the battered and unresponsive body of 5-year-old Sarah Dubois-Gilbeau. The child’s father has been charged in her death, allegedly beating her with a rubber water shoe for not doing homework he assigned.
Friday, April 5, 2019, 19-year-old Eric Apisa was pronounced dead, three days after being shot in the head during an apparent drug deal.
Friday, April 5, 2019,, BCSO deputies found a body with signs of trauma in a ditch in the 1700 block of Bridge SW. They identified the man as Manuel Barraza, 49.
Friday night, April 5, 2019, APD officers shot Pedro Escalante, after he fled an “altercation” in a stolen vehicle, crashed into a car and pointed a gun at police during a foot chase.
Saturday April 6, 2019, a woman was found slain in a home in the 1100 block of Via Chamisa, NE.
Saturday April 6, 2019, a couple was found dead in a home in the 600 block of Princeton SE, south of the University of New Mexico.
Sunday, April 7, 2019, a young child was hospitalized after being shot in a Northeast Albuquerque home.
On April 8, 2019, a man was shot and killed on Albuquerque’s West Side.
According to the Bernalillo County District Attorney Office (DA) there were 36% more killings this year than over the same time period last year, despite all other major categories of crime declining.
The DA’s Office Crime Strategies Unit disclosed to the Journal that it has been compiling a database of all instances in which a person was shot since January 1, 2018. The DA’s newly created office of “Crime Strategies Unit” found that throughout all of 2018 there were 232 shootings where someone was struck, 64 or 65 of which resulted in a killing.
Thus far, the youngest victim killed this year was 8-year-old Diamond Williams, no arrests have been made and APD has said they are not looking for any suspects.
APD STATISTICS PROVIDED
APD provided the Journal with statistics in 4 areas:
2. Shootings with injuries
3. Shootings with no injuries and
4. Shootings with property damage.
The data APD provided did not include suicides, accidental shootings, homicides done in self-defense, or shootings by law enforcement. APD’s preliminary numbers show a total of 312 shootings with fatalities, with injuries, without injuries, and property damage so far this year, an increase of 11 percent over the same time last year when there were 281.
BERNALILLO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY STATISTICS
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has implemented a data collection program called “Ceasefire”. Ceasefire is a data-driven approach to combat gun violence.
According to the DA’s office a breakdown of data from January 1, 2019, to April 23, 2019 is as follows:
There were 101 shootings in which individuals were injured or killed, several of which had multiple victims
114 people were shot, 17 of whom were killed.
95 incidents happened in the city.
6 incidents happened outside the city but within the county.
2 people were shot by law enforcement.
10 cases were self-inflicted shootings.
The shortest time between shootings was 16 minutes.
The longest time was a five-and-a-half-day stretch in early January.
The average number of shootings was just over one shooting per day.
Suspects have been identified in 42 cases, although it’s unclear how many have resulted in an arrest.
There were 27 more shootings so far in 2019 compared to the same time period in 2018 when there were 74 shootings.
Dr. Steve McLaughlin, the UNM chairman of the department of emergency medicine, said the University of New Mexico Hospital Emergency Room has gunshot victims admitted to the ER almost every day. According to Dr. McLaughlin, national data indicates that about one third of gunshot victims die, the remaining two thirds survive their wounds but the majority of those who do survive are never the same.
FOCUS ON VIOLENT CRIME FOR TWO YEARS
The yearly numbers of homicides, aggravated assaults, which are defined as assaults with a deadly weapon, non-fatal shootings, robberies and rape for the last two years and the first quarter of 2019 brings into focus the 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.
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.
Mayor Tim Keller had this to say in commenting on the APD initiatives to combat and reduce gun violence:
“[The initiatives are] just not going to happen overnight so we’re trying to push them as fast as we can and encourage our partners to do the same.”
DECLINING CRIME RATES
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 10 years of historic highs in all major categories but nonfatal shootings are up.
Property crimes, robberies, auto thefts and auto burglaries all dropped.
Auto burglary decreased by 28%, auto theft decreased by 29%, and residential burglary decreased by 32% compared to last year’s numbers during the same time period.
Property crimes, like theft and burglaries, have had a 17% drop from 2017 to 2018 for the same time period last year.
The decline represents a dramatic decrease to the numbers reported last year.
The bad news in the report was that 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.
You can review the news stories here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
“114 People Shot In 112 Days” and “Albuquerque Police Deal With A Day Of Mayhem” are the very type of headlines, color photos and TV news lead stories that likely cause many sleepless nights for the Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, APD Chief Michael Geier, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez and Mayor Tim Keller.
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. Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez and Mayor Tim Keller probably understand the impact headlines like “114 People Shot In 112 Days” and “Albuquerque Police Deal With A Day Of Mayhem” can have on their political careers, more so on Torrez because he is running out of time given he is up for election to a second term in 2020 while Keller is up in 2021.
Both Torrez and Keller campaigned to get elected DA and Mayor on a platform that they could and would bring down our skyrocketing crime rates. No at all surprising, Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez have tried to take credit for crime rates being on the decline in all other categories other than gun violence offenses for the first time in nine years.
In 2016, Raul Torrez campaigned on a platform of reducing crime arguing that crime rates were too high, our criminal justice system was broken and that he was the guy to fix it. Torrez during his first year in office blamed judges for our high crime rates because of reduced sentences given to violent criminals and dismissal of cases until it was revealed that his office voluntarily dismissed cases at much higher rates than the courts. After more than two years in office, blaming judges for high crime rates and constant complaining about lack of resources without filling over 41 vacancies in his office, DA Torrez only now realizes that has not worked and finally reached out to other cities to find better strategies, such as his “Ceasefire Program” and his “Crime Strategies Unit” .
In 2017, then State Auditor Tim Keller campaigned for Mayor proclaiming he had the right plan for reducing crime, police reform and community-based policing. To his credit, Mayor Tim Keller is spending $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers by implementing a hiring and recruitment program to offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing. By July, 2019, APD should have up to 950 sworn police. Despite Mayor Keller’s increases APD budget and personnel, he has not shaken the stark reality that the city is way too violent and he is relegated to issuing uninspiring and idealistic statements to the Albuquerque Journal like:
“This is the number one problem facing our city and it has been for some time. … It’s something that’s going to take all of us coming together to deal with.”
As the shootings, assaults and killings continue to rise, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller are increasingly focused on the gun violence and the city’s murder rates, but time may be running out for both of them despite their efforts. Both DA Torrez and Mayor Keller have initiated programs in an effort to bring down violent crime rates and gun violence. What is becoming increasingly concerning for the City is that all the increases in APD budget and personnel and increases and new programs at the DA’s Office may not have any effect on be bringing down the violent crime and murder rates. Only time will tell if APD’s and the DA’s new initiatives are successful, and we all must hope they are for the safety of our families and ourselves.
Notwithstanding, voters are very fickle and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. The Bernalillo County District Attorney’ s Office is now Torrez’s full responsibility and he cannot blame his predecessor for continuing increases in our crime rates and bungled prosecutions. APD is now fully in the hands of Mayor Tim Keller and his appointed command staff, and he cannot blame his predecessor for continuing increases in our crime rates.
No doubt DA Raul Torrez and Mayor Tim Keller have high hopes that their efforts will bring down gun violence and the murder rates.
Otherwise, both District Attorney Raul Torrez and Mayor Tim Keller may wake up the day after their next election bids to read media headlines that they have lost their election for a second term.