On Sunday, September 29, 17-year-old Sean Markey, a senior at Sandia High School, was shot while at a high school homecoming party. APD received multiple calls about gunshots and officers responded to several calls of shots fired in the 3900 block of Garcia, near Montgomery and Eubank. Markey was rushed to Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital by a friend and the teenager later died.
In September alone, 5 teenagers were shot and killed in four incidents across the city. An APD spokesman said he did not know how many teenagers have been shot during parties this year, but “we have identified 20 shooting incidents tied to house parties.”
According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos:
“Over the last several weeks, we have noticed an uptick in the number of house parties throughout the city that have resulted in dangerous and deadly gunfire. … We [are seeing] … both the offenders and victims in a lot of these cases are teenagers involved in this deadly violence. … It is hard to stomach. … These are our kids. They shouldn’t be in that position, either side, they shouldn’t have a gun, and they shouldn’t be in that kind of confrontation. … One of the things we’re immediately moving toward is holding the owners of these homes accountable for providing alcohol to minors. … We want parents to be responsible and to look out for their kids. ” Gallegos added that authorities will be exploring whether adults could be prosecuted if they know there are guns at a party.
PARTY PATROL PROPOSED
Just a few days after the murder of the Sandia High teenager, Albuquerque City Councilors Trudy Jones, Ken Sanchez and Brad Winter announced a proposal to renew and finance APD’s “party patrol” program that existed in the early 2000’s but was discontinued in 2007. The 3 city councilors are proposing $150,000 to provide funding and to renew the party patrol program.
Under the “Party Patrol” program, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) officers would work special overtime shifts to specifically answer party calls. APD would issue citations to underage partiers and call their parents. Councilor Winter said he was uncertain exactly how APD would run the program now, including whether it would issue citations to those found drinking under age 21.
According to Councilor Winter:
“I think the administration needs to look at what part of [the party patrol program] worked and didn’t work and adjust it”.
Mayor Tim Keller’s administration made it clear it has no intent on duplicating the old strategy. APD Police Chief Michael Geier said in a statement:
“To be clear, we are not bringing back the same ‘Party Patrol’ of the past that mainly targeted teen drinking, but rather working with the community on teen violence intervention”.
The Keller administration, including police and city attorneys, are in the process of deciding on the details of the program, including using a totally different name. Keller’s office announced plans for what it wants to call a “Youth Violence Intervention” strategy. It is a strategy that incorporates police and social services, including supporting diversion programs for young offenders and programs that “build relationships between youth and first responders” according to a news release.
HISTORY OF APD PARTY PATROL
City Councilor Brad Winter is credited for starting the Party Patrol in 2001. At the time, Winter was an assistant principal at La Cueva High School. As a City Councilor, he went to APD when he heard there was a lot of underage drinking happening around the city.
The original APD “Party Patrol” used federal and city council appropriations to pay 12 police officers overtime every Friday and Saturday night to check out calls about loud parties. The dozen officers were broken up into two teams, one for the East Side and one for the West Side. When a person called 911 and complained about a loud party, APD would dispatch the Party Patrol and APD would go straight to the party to see if there was underage drinking. APD would issue the kids “minor in possession of alcohol” citations and arrested the homeowner for giving alcohol to minors.
APD went so far as to advertise the Party Patrol and bought billboards, took out radio commercials and used a “hearse” to advertise that the Party Patrol was going to be out. In its advertising APD used the phrase “Party Meet Poopers” and showed a police officer or an APD badge with the words Party Patrol on it.
The party patrol became very controversial. Critics of the party patrol program objected to the early practice of citing all underage kids at a party, regardless of whether they were drinking or in possession of alcohol. APD eventually stopped the practice. In 2007, a civil rights lawsuit was filed and a federal judge ruled that party patrol officers who entered a home without a search warrant had violated the owner’s constitutional rights.
At the height the program, the Party Patrol was giving out about 2,000 citations a year. The Party Patrol busted up hundreds of parties, wrote thousands of citations and the affect was teenagers were scared to go out drinking. Eventually, the APD party patrol was stopped in part because of the federal lawsuit and in part a victim of its own success. Program funding stopped and there were not enough officers to assign to it.
George Luján, the executive director of the South West Organizing Project, expressed concerns about reinstating APD party patrols, and about officers arresting and citing teenagers and had this to say about bringing Party Patrols back:
“I would say that that would fall under the category of a recycled, failed idea that we tried before and it didn’t work. … I think a lot of us are worried about our kids and the safety of young people. But we have to be sure that we don’t fall into these traps where, in the pursuit of safety, we do more harm than good.”
GANGS AT THE CENTER OF DRUG AND GUN VIOLENCE
On May 24, 2019, it was reported by APD that gangs are driving much of the drug and gun violence crime and that city gangs are at the center of much of the city’s gun violence and drug trafficking. The report showed that APD can barely keep up with the problem and gave a summary of a number of gang and drug related murders, including teenager murders.
The story reported something law enforcement has known for decades and that is gangs are a serious problem in New Mexico. In July 1990 the New Mexico Judicial Council did a survey that queried 30 local law enforcement agencies across the State on the extent of gang activity in their jurisdictions. The 16 responding agencies identified 127 gangs statewide with an estimated membership of between 4,200 and 5,800. A total of 111 of these gangs are in Albuquerque and comprise the majority of the total gang membership.
Evidence indicates that 80% of the State’s street gangs are involved in narcotics trafficking. Twenty percent of reported crimes committed by gang members are narcotics violations, 36% are violent crimes, and 40% are property crimes. Of the 111 Albuquerque gangs, 61 are Hispanic, 31 black, and 19 white.
Fast forward to October 15, 2012. It was reported that the then Mayor responded to rising violent crime rates by tripling the size of its Gang Unit to a fifteen-member team split into a plain-clothes squad dedicated to undercover investigative work and a uniformed task force to patrol the entire city of Albuquerque. According to APD at the time, there were as many as 246 active gangs in Albuquerque at the time and a total of 7,700 documented gang members.
TEENS, GANGS, DRUGS AND GUN VIOLENCE
APD has not said if the murder of 17-year-old Sean Markey was gang or drug related or if it was a drive by gang shooting. Notwithstanding, the murder does fit a definite pattern of a gang related drive by shooting and with what is going on with teenagers in Albuquerque.
According to APD Commander Mizel Garcia, commander of APD’s Special Investigations Division Gang Unit, gang activity is at the center of much of Albuquerque’s gun violence and the trafficking of narcotics.
The following recent reported murders support the point of drugs and gangs as being at the center of the problem:
In December, 2018, 15-year-old Collin Romero and 14-year-old Ahmed Lateef went reported missing on the west mesa. Weeks later, Sandoval County authorities found the boys dead in a shallow grave. Investigators say two Albuquerque teens were tortured and killed over marijuana. The Office of Medical Investigators (OMI) autopsy reports revealed that 15-year-old Romero was shot nine times and he was beaten and stabbed in his joints. 14 year old Lateef was shot 19 times. Police say 19-year-old Stephen Goldman is the suspect in the murders.
On April 10, APD detectives arrested Ryan Winter, 46, and his three children, who APD police say are gang members, Keith, 16, Kevin, 16, and Faith, 17, in connection with the vicious beating of a man and a woman on Feb. 9. Allegedly, the family tracked down the victims after a fight between Faith Winter and others, including the female victim. The Winters beat the woman with a gun and shoved a shotgun in the man’s face outside a gas station.
On April 16, APD detectives arrested Donald Crapse “a self-admitted motorcycle gang member” after allegedly witnessing him snort drugs outside a southwest Albuquerque home during a surveillance operation.
On May 7, police arrested Cesar Marquez and Adrian Marquez after APD received a call of a juvenile running around with a gun in a Walmart parking lot. According to a police spokesman “As officers entered the parking lot they heard multiple gunshots. ” Police found the 2 men in a blue Ford Mustang and identified Adrian Marquez as the suspect who fired off shots. Inside the car, detectives found a loaded gun and an ounce of cocaine.
On May 9, APD Detectives arrested Chris Salcido after a month’s long investigation alleging that he is gang member involved in several shootings and a “driver of crime and gun violence.” Salcido was caught at a southwest Albuquerque home after a standoff with police. Inside the home, they found three ounces of cocaine, two pistols and an assault rifle that had been reported stolen. Salcido has also been tied to several shootings and associated with 36 calls for service, including shots fired, suspected narcotics trafficking and aggravated battery.
On May 9, police arrested Dana LaMonda and Juan Carlos Pacheco at a home in southwest Albuquerque after following up on reports of possible gang activity and suspected ties to several shootings. LaMonda was booked on a felony warrant for aggravated burglary of a firearm and Pacheco for separate charges.
On September 14, it was reported that 5 people were murdered and at least five injured in connection with three shootings in Albuquerque. APD Police said 3 of the 5 victims that were murdered were teens. Police identified them as Daniel Alexis Baca (17), Victoria Cereceres (16), and Noah Tafoya (18). The two other adults who died were identified as Christine Baca (36), and Manuelita Sotelo (77). The friends of 17 year old Daniel Alex Baca said friends said he died because of “the life he chose” and that was drug dealing and drugs.
For news coverage see:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
If only Albuquerque was the same as it was from 2001 to 2007 when the Party Patrol first existed and violent crime was down and one of APD’s biggest worries was underage drinking at high school homecoming and graduation parties. Albuquerque’s biggest worry in 2019 and going into 2020 is drugs, gangs and gun violence.
Albuquerque City Councilors Trudy Jones, Ken Sanchez and Brad Winter have good intentions but are kidding themselves if they believe that the problem is alcohol and guns used by high school teenagers. Bringing back a version of the “party patrol” from nearly 20 years ago in which APD was dispatched to break up house parties, issue misdemeanor citations to underage partygoers and calling parents to pick up their children is simply not going to cut it.
In recent months before civic groups such as the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP), the Economic Forum and the Albuquerque Bar Association, Mayor Tim Keller has produced charts, graphs and statistics showing that violent crime is indeed in all parts of the City and not confined to any particular area of the City. One chart used is a series of red dots showing crime sites and reflects the city literally bathed in red dots throughout. Crime may be down according to FBI statistics, but the crime rates have gotten so out of control that even after progress of reducing our crime statistics are still extremely high. Albuquerque still has some of the highest crime rates for murder and violent crimes in the country.
The Keller Administration and Chief Michael Geier have said they are disinclined to revive the party patrol, which had mixed results and resulted in civil rights violations. Chief’s Geier’s reluctance is noteworthy because 19 years ago he was the APD Captain in charge of the party patrol, and although he defended its work at the time, he does understand how it operated and more importantly its weaknesses.
The Keller Administration rightly is considering a more holistic approach involving law enforcement, social services and the community to deal with the cycle of violence with more youth programs and more services that give back a sense of trust, hope and support to the community. It is commendable that such an approach is being taken, but no doubt it will take years to show any affect.
The City Council needs to step aside and let APD do its job. APD needs to again increase the size of the gang and narcotics unit and initiate an aggressive and unrelenting number of tactical plans against the city’s gangs and widespread drug dealing to the youth of our community. Fugitive warrant sweeps would be a good start.
The Albuquerque Public School System (APS) has its own police force employing many retirees and former law enforcement officials assigned to the individual schools. You would think APS security would know the students and have insightful information about high school parties. If there is a high school party problem involving alcohol use, APS could initiate its own Party Patrol Program during homecomings and graduation season. APD also provides police officers to the schools. The Albuquerque Public School System and APS Security along with APD assigned to the schools could implement APS “party patrol” to deal with high school homecoming parties, graduation parties and other high school related parties involving the individual schools.
Until APD acts more aggressively to curb gang violence and narcotics dealing to our youth, parents of teenagers and residents can expect to see more teen killings followed by outrage, more candlelight vigils, more funerals, more condolences, more rhetoric demanding action and more promises never kept.