New Mexico posted the nation’s second-highest violent crime rate and its highest property crime rate in 2018 driven by high crime rates in Albuquerque. According to Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI), in 2018 New Mexico had the second-highest violent crime rate and highest property crime rate in the nation. While the national crime rate in 2018 was around 369 violent crimes and 2,200 property crimes per 100,000 residents, New Mexico had 857 violent crimes and 3,420 property crimes per 100,000 residents.
NEW MEXICO STATE POLICE SURGE
On May 4, 2019, a University of New Mexico student was shot and killed outside a Nob Hill nightclub. Four days after the shooting, law enforcement officials in the Albuquerque area were called to a meeting by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to discuss ways to fight violent crime in the state’s largest city. The decision was made to send 50 New Mexico State Police (NMSP) officers diverted from other parts of the state to patrol certain areas of the city for a two-month period. From May 10 to June 5, the 50 state police officers were stationed mainly in Southeast Albuquerque and off West Central and in an area in the Northeast.
On October 9, it was reported that the two-month NMSP “Metro Surge Operation” cost $975,765, including $407,889 for 14,674 regular patrol hours, $407,306 for 9,850 overtime hours, and $93,143 for lodging and $67,428 for meals. The Metro Surge resulted in 14,674 traffic stops and netted 738 arrests with the majority of the arrests being for felony or misdemeanor warrants.
GOVERNOR CREATES FUGITIVE APPREHENSION UNIT
On October 30, 2019, in part because of the success of the May New Mexico State Police surge in Albuquerque which resulted in 738 arrests for felony or misdemeanor warrants, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham order the creation of the “Fugitive Apprehension Unit” to apprehend hundreds of criminal defendant’s across New Mexico who have not shown up for court hearings or wanted on bench warrants. The Fugitive Apprehension Unit will consist of State Police officers and state Corrections Department staffers. The unit will work with local law enforcement officials around New Mexico to track down and arrest people charged with committing violent crimes. According to the New Mexico Administrative Office of the District Attorneys, there are more than 1,600 outstanding bench warrants for people charged with violent crimes.
Governor Lujan Grisham created the Fugitive Apprehension Unit by executive order. The unit will be made up at first of 7 State Police officers and 7 Corrections Department staffers. Everyone team member must have a clean background with no significant disciplinary actions. Team members will be selected from different parts of the state in an effort to avoid affecting day-to-day operations. The unit will be required to make monthly reports to the Governor’s Office documenting its arrests. The executive order also instructs other executive branch state agencies to cooperate with the special law enforcement unit by providing requested information and assistance.
In announcing the “Fugitive Apprehension Unit”, Governor Lujan Grisham had this to say:
“Our justice system is undermined when people accused of serious criminal offenses evade prosecution. We need to explore every avenue for increasing public safety in New Mexico; we need to be smart on crime while being tough on crime. By deploying these resources in a targeted fashion and continuing to work hand in hand with local jurisdictions, the state can make meaningful strides toward reducing crime in our communities and ensuring high-profile violent individuals are brought into the judicial process.”
ALBUQUERQUE’S VIOLENT CRIME RATES
On October 2, 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released the 2018 crime statistics for Albuquerque based on crime reports or offense reports statistics the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) provided to it. The FBI statistics reflect that Albuquerque had a decrease from the record high crime rates reported in 2017.
According to the data released, Albuquerque had 1,365 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2018 compared to the states 369 per 100,000 residents. The city had rates of 1,365 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, and 6,179 property crimes per 100,000 residents compared with 3,420 statewide and 2,200 nationally.
The FBI report showed the following crime rates for 2018:
Property Crime: 34,619 offenses per 100,000 residents
Violent Crime: 7,646 offenses per 100,000 residents
Auto theft was down by 27% between 2017 and 2018, and it is down another 22% in 2019.
Robbery is also down by a third this year.
New Mexico as a state had a significantly lower violent crime rate reported as 857 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. The national violent crime rate was 369 per 100,000 people, significantly less than the city’s or the states rate. Albuquerque had four times the violent crime rate as the United States as a whole.
Auto theft decreased by 27% between 2017 and 2018, and it is down another 22% this year. Despite huge drops in the number of auto thefts in the city in the past two years, Albuquerque still ranked number one in the country for auto thefts.
The FBI statistics revealed improvement in the categories for the first six months of 2018. Robberies were down 47%, aggravated assaults down 10% and rape was down 29%.
The murder rate continues to be very problematic for the city. As of October 2, 2019, the city recorded 63 homicides through September compared with 69 murders in all of 2018.
Reporting by law enforcement agencies for the annual report, which was released October 2, is voluntary. The raw data offers a broad look at crime in thousands of U.S. cities, but many times is inconsistent or incomplete. According to the FBI the data does not take into account factors that analysts say are known to affect crime: economic conditions, poverty, drug abuse or population density.
ANOTHER PRESS CONFERENCE AND PRESS RELEASE
Since taking office on December 1, 2017, Mayor Keller has made it a point to hold a press conferences every 3 months to report on APD’s and the city’s progress toward lowering crime statistics. Albuquerque’s high crime statistics have taken front an center in all the press conferences. Albuquerque’s violent crime rates are still at unacceptable levels and Mayor Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier have acknowledge this fact each time they have held a press conference to discuss FBI statistics.
In July, Keller and APD held a news conference announcing a significant drop in crime across the board when comparing the first six months of 2019 with the first six months of the two previous years. Keller and APD announced that aggravated assaults from January through June had declined 33% in comparison with the same period during the previous year. taken front and center in the last 4 races for Albuquerque Mayor.
In the October 2 press release announcing the new statistics, Mayor Keller and APD had to backtrack on many of July figures and said that while there had still been a decrease in crime, aggravated assaults had declined just 10% and auto theft had declined 22%. In total, Albuquerque had 69 murder or non-negligent manslaughter cases for the entire year of 2018, while all other New Mexico cities included in the FBI’s 2018 data set had 49 such cases combined. Albuquerque police officials said that preliminary 2019 figures showed there had been 63 homicides in Albuquerque from January through the end of September.
CITY’S 2008 TO 2018 VIOLENT CRIME STATISTICS
Albuquerque’s FBI Uniform Crime statistics for the years 2008 to 2018 reveal just how bad violent crime has increased in Albuquerque over the last 10 years. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assaults. Property Crimes include burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. The hard numbers for the last 10 years reflect that crime has not declined much and that like a waive on a beach, it had “ebbed and flowed” over the years.
As of October 2, 2019, of this year, there were 63 homicides in Albuquerque. The number of HOMICIDES reported each year from 2008 to 2018 are:
2019: 63 homicides as of October 2.
The number of RAPES reported each year from 2008 to 2018 are:
The number of AGGRAVATED ASSAULTS reported each year from 2008 to 2016 are:
The total number of VIOLENT CRIMES (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault combined) reported each year from 2008 to 2018 were:
2017: 7,686 (Aggravated Assaults: 4,213, Non-Fatal Shootings: 470)
2018: 6,789 (Aggravated Assaults: 3,885, Non-Fatal Shootings: 491)
INCREASING SIZE APD POLICE FORCE
APD’s is spending $88 million dollars beginning last year in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 sworn officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers. The massive investment is being done in order to full fill Mayor Tim Keller’s 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates. Last year’s 2018-2019 fiscal year budget provided for increasing APD funding from 1,000 sworn police to 1,040. This year’s 2019-2020 fiscal year budget has funding for 1,040 sworn police.
On June 17, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced that is has hired 116 police officers during the first full budget year of the Mayor Tim Keller Administration. A very large percentage of those officers are lateral hires from other departments. It is projected that with the additions APD will reach 957 sworn officers by the end of July, 2019 and reach 981 by the end of the summer. For the 2019-20129 fiscal year that begins July 1, 2019 APD has been is budgeted for 1,040 full time sworn officers.
According to an APD news release at the time, about two-thirds of the 116 new officers are already patrolling the streets and taking calls for service. The remainder are expected to be on duty by the end of the summer. Of the 957 police officers APD now has, 533 are patrolling the streets taking calls for service.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The good news for the city is that the hard numbers reflect that for one full year of 2017 to 2018 and the first 6 months of 2019, crime was going down in the major categories. The bad news is the 10-year statistics confirms crime is not down, especially when it comes to violent crimes. In a nutshell, violent crime is not down and a dramatic turnaround is needed before people will feel safe.
Crime statistics and rankings for years have been a major political hot issue in political races in the state and the subject of measures passed in the legislature. New Mexico lawmakers for the last 12 years have debated how to boost public safety while attempting to attract more tourism and jobs.
Sooner rather than later, APD and the city will not be able to rely on other law enforcement agencies like the State Police to help out reducing crime. APD has now grown, and citizens will be expecting far more from APD as well as Mayor Tim Keller.
On December 1, 2019, it will be a full two years that Mayor Tim Keller has been in office. The Keller Administration has made impressive strides in returning to community-based policing, implementing the Department of Justice Court Agreed Settlement Agreement (CASA), has grown the APD to what will in all likely be 1,100 officers by the end of next year, and has spent millions to get it all done.
Notwithstanding all of the law enforcement accomplishments, the city’s violent crime rates are still at unacceptable levels. Mayor Keller has another full year before the 2021 municipal election begins in earnest in February, 2021 where he is expected to run for another term. We can expect that crime rates and APD will once again be major issues in the 2021 municipal election for Mayor.