On November 19, just after 5 a.m., a man called 911 to say his wife had been shot. He found his wife slumped over, not moving, in her car in the driveway. He couldn’t open the door and he call 911. When paramedics arrived at the residence located at the 2100 block of Corte de Loma NW, near Unser and Ladera, the woman was already dead. The shooting occurred in a quiet upper-middle-class neighborhood on the city’s West Side. The victim, identified by her neighbors as Jacqueline “Jackie” Vigil, a woman in her 50s, is the mother of two New Mexico State Police officers.
Detectives with the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) think it was an attempted robbery. APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said that after the shooting, a car horn started blaring and neighbors came out of their homes to see a Jeep fleeing the scene. Gallegos elaborated:
“All indications are that she was in her car, getting ready to go to the gym apparently, and this appears to be a robbery attempt of some sort. … It sounds like just an innocent victim who was getting ready to go out in the morning. We don’t know the circumstances if they were trying to rob her or the vehicle, but it does look like an attempted robbery. Two individuals were seen leaving the area in a brown Jeep Cherokee.”
In a press release issued, Mayor Tim Keller had this to say of the murder:
“We lost a member of our community—a mother to two state police officers—to gun violence. This is a senseless, tragic, and heartbreaking loss, for her family and for Albuquerque. We are working tirelessly to bring the killers to justice, and we are committed to continue the fight against criminals who perpetrate violence in our city.”
The murder of Jacqueline “Jackie” Vigil was the 71st homicide in Albuquerque this year, surpassing last year’s total of 69 homicides. The highest number in recent history was in 2017 when there were 72 homicides reported that year.
Mayor Tim Keller’s condolences over the senseless murder of Jacqueline Vigil was not the first time he has issued his concerns over the city’s violent crime rates. Just 6 months ago during a May 10 press conference, Mayor Tim Keller had this to say about the murder of 23-year-old University of New Mexico student Jackson Weller:
“I am saddened and angered by the news that a student’s life was taken last night. … I am getting updates regularly from APD as they work hard to solve this case and bring the killer to justice … Gun violence is not a problem with a quick or obvious solution, but we are determined to fight back in every way. … We understand the urgency of this moment … We are increasing our efforts … Over the last decade, violent crime driven by drugs, gangs, guns, and domestic violence has become an increasingly deadly challenge for this community. … We have made this dangerous mix of crime our top priority.”
On November 20, it was reported that the homicide count in Albuquerque is now at 72, matching the city’s record in 2017. APD confirmed a fight Tuesday night left one man dead. Officers were dispatched to the Econo Lodge on Central near I-25 in response to a fight in progress. Police said that once they arrived, they saw a man who was unconscious. Paramedics from Albuquerque Fire Rescue attempted to save his life, but he died from his injuries on scene.
On November 20, it was reported that APD was investigating a shooting near Unser and Tower that occurred Wednesday night. According to reports, when APD arrived to the scene they discovered a male subject with multiple gunshot wounds. According to police, the subject crashed his car into another vehicle. The subject was taken to UNMH to be treated for injuries. The victim was listed in critical condition.
KELLER FORCED TO DEFEND POLICIES
On November 20, 2019, just 24 hours after the murder of Jacqueline Vigil, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier held a press conference to address the soaring murder numbers as this year has now tied the all-time record for the number of murders in the city at 72. The news conference was somewhat uncomfortable with a somber Mayor Keller forced to defend policies on what APD is doing to reduce the murder rate.
Mayor Keller and APD were specifically asked that after such a senseless murder as the murder of Jacqueline Vigil, how do they reassure the public they’re safe? Mayor Keller acknowledged the problem and said he is working on identifying the root cause of violent crime.
Addressing the growing number of violent crimes during the news conference, Keller said:
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen homicides increase slightly, and the year, of course, is not yet over. So with five or so weeks left to go, we know this is going to be one of our worst years on record.
“You know, we came into a situation where violent crime had been rising every single year and I know for us, we have made progress in categories of crime, but it’s true we have not made progress in violent crime, that’s why it is our number one priority going forward … I think we have some very strong initiatives that we are working on that we outlined. We are going to give this every piece of efforts that we can. …
Underlying each one of these murders is a combination of gangs, drugs or domestic violence and guns. It’s this recipe that is eroding our community and eating away at our families and neighborhoods.”
Mayor Keller said his new efforts include staffing one more APD homicide detective and creating a unit that works with prosecutors to ensure more convictions. Keller proclaimed he will unveil a new initiative to target violent offenders.
KELLER INTENDS TO ASK FOR $30 MILLION FROM STATE
APD has an approved general fund budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 of $188.9 million dollars, which represents an increase of 10.7% or $18.3 million above last year’s budget. According to the approved budget, APD has 1,560 approved full-time positions with 1,040 sworn police budgeted positions and 520 budgeted civilian positions. You can review the entire APD approved budget here:
It was in April, 2018 that Mayor Keller agreed to and signed off on a $55 million dollar a year increase in gross receipts tax enacted by the city council, breaking his promise not to raise taxes without a public vote even for public safety. The city council dedicated 75% or the tax increase to public safety needs.
During his press conference, Mayor Keller said he plans on asking the governor and state legislature for $30 million in funding during the upcoming 2020 legislative session to “modernize” APD. According to Keller $20 million dollars of that will go to changing the way police file reports and produce crime stats and how they connect all the crime-fighting data into one.
According to Keller:
“We’re dealing with systems that are decades old and older. It’s a situation that is holding back everything that we are trying to do as a department. It’s essentially a deferred investment that I wish we would have made a decade ago and that we have to make now.”
The other $10 million would go to the city’s new violence intervention program.
APD HOMICIDE UNIT
Since first taking office on December 1, 2017, Mayor Tim Keller has doubled the number of homicide detectives from 5 to 10. On November 17, Keller announced APD was adding one more detective to the unit.
APD spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said APD is doing everything they can to bring justice to victim’s families and said:
“Our homicide detectives work large caseloads, often under intense public scrutiny. Make no mistake, they put everything into solving these cases and bringing justice to every victim and their loved ones. ”
APD HAS DECREASING HOMICIDE CLEARANCE RATE
According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City Budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%, in 2017 the clearance rate was 70% and the clearance rate for 2018 was 56%. APD officials said they have investigated 70 homicide cases this year. Out of those 70 cases, 36 have been solved. In 2018, APD investigated 69 homicides and solved 37 or just over half. According to APD, it is less about the number of detectives and more about good witnesses willing to testify.
In the past few years, it has been reported that the APD Homicide Unit has botched any number of high-profile murder investigations. The APD Homicide Unit has compiled a history of not doing complete investigations, misleading the public, feeding confessions to people with low IQs, getting investigations completely wrong and even arresting innocent people. For more on APD’s high profile murder cases see:
The most egregious was the murder investigation of 10-year-old Victoria Martens who was murdered, dismembered and whose body was burned in a bathtub. The initial APD Homicide alleged that it was Jessica Kelley that stabbed 9-year-old Victoria Martens and that Fabian Gonzales strangled her while Michelle Martens, the child’s mother, watched the murder.
It was later revealed that Jessica Kelley did not murder the child. Michelle Martens falsely admitted to committing the crimes when forensic evidence revealed she and her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales were not even in the apartment at the time of the murder, they did not participate in the murder and that there is an unidentified 4th suspect in the case who committed the murder.
On November 20, 2019, it was reported that Defendant Fabian Gonzales was release from jail pending his trial. He was released to the court’s pretrial services division, which is tasked with finding an appropriate place for him to live until his trial. Gonzales had been in the county jail since August 2016 on a $1 million cash-only bond.
Shortly after his arrest in 2016, Gonzales had been accused of drugging, raping and killing Victoria, but after further investigation, Bernalillo County D. A. Raul Torrez was forced to revise the prosecution’s theory of the case, and dropped rape and murder charges against Gonzales. Gonzales is now accused of helping his cousin dismember the body of 10-year-old Victoria Martens after she was reportedly killed by an unidentified man who was looking for Gonzales.
ALBUQUERQUE HOMICIDE AND VIOLENT CRIME RATES
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 November 20, 2019, there were 72 homicides in Albuquerque. The number of homicides reported each year from 2008 to 2019 are:
2019: 72 homicides as of November 20, 2019
The number of AGGRAVATED ASSAULTS (assaults with deadly weapon) 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)
BERNALILLO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY VIOLENT CRIME STATISTICS
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has implemented a data collection program called “Ceasefire”. Ceasefire is supposedly 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.
KELLER DECLARES VIOLENT CRIME “PUBLIC HEALTH” ISSUE
During his November 19 press conference, Mayor Keller hinted that his Administration will unveil a new initiative to target violent offenders. If this sounds familiar, it should. This will be the second time in 6 months that Keller has announced a new program to combat violent crime.
On April 8, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller and APD announced efforts that will deal with “violent crime” in the context of it being a “public health issue” and dealing with crimes involving guns in an effort to bring down violent crime in Albuquerque.
Mayor Keller and APD argue that gun violence is a “public health issue” because gun violence incidents have lasting adverse effects on children and others in the community that leads to further problems. APD supposedly is tracking violent crime relying on the same methods used to track auto thefts, weekly reports summarizing shootings, refining policies, and learning from best practices used by other law enforcement agencies. One goal is for APD to examine how guns are driving other crimes, such as domestic violence and drug addiction.
The initiatives announced on April 8, 2019 included:
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.
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.
For a related blog article see:
INCREASING SIZE OF APD POLICE FORCE
APD’s is spending $88 million dollars beginning 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 August 1, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) issued what it entitled “Staffing Snapshot” providing a report on the number of sworn police officers APD now has and where they have been assigned. According to the report, APD as of August 1, 2019 a total of 972 sworn officers with 600 officers assigned to the field services patrolling 6 area commands and neighborhoods. You can view a detail breakdown of staffing levels here:
Last year APD sworn responded to 580,238 calls for service, made 9, 592 felony arrest, made 18,442 misdemeanor arrests, made 1,403 DWI arrests and made 2,256 domestic violence arrests. The overwhelming majority of the responses and arrests were made by APD field service officers when APD had 116 fewer sworn police.
AFFECT OF THE DOJ COURT APPROVED SETTLEMEMT AGREEMENT
The August 1, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) issued “Staffing Snapshot” revealed the extent of resources and personnel are dedicated to implementation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with APD’s Compliance Bureau.
The APD Compliance Bureaus consists of the Internal Affairs Professional Standards Division, Policy and Procedure Division, Accountability and Oversight Division, Internal Affairs Force Division and the Behavioral Health and Crisis Intervention Section. One of the major concentrations of this bureau is the ongoing cooperation with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree (CASA) and its implementation of its terms and conditions. Internal Affairs deals with investigation police misconduct cases. Crisis Intervention deals with the crisis intervention teams who deal with the mentally ill. Policy and Procedures deals with the review and writing of standard operating procedures.
The staffing reported for the compliance bureau is 1 Deputy Chief, 3 Commanders, 1 Deputy Commander, 6 Lieutenants, 10 Sergeants and 40 Detectives for a total of 61 which is 6.28% of the department sworn police officers.
COMPLETION OF DOJ MANDATED REFORMS
From all appearances, and from review of all the Federal Monitor’s reports, the City and APD have completed the following mandated reforms under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement:
1. After a full year of negotiations, the new “use of force” and “use of deadly force” policies have been written, implemented. All APD sworn have received training on the policies.
2. All sworn have received at least 40 hours crisis management intervention training.
3. APD has created a “Use of Force Review Board” that oversees all internal affairs investigations of use of force and deadly force.
4. The Internal Affairs Unit has been divided into two sections, one dealing with general complaints and the other dealing with use of force incidents.
5. Sweeping changes ranging from APD’s SWAT team protocols, to banning chokeholds, to auditing the use of every Taser carried by officers and re writing and implementation in new use of force and deadly force policies have been completed.
6. “Constitutional policing” practices and methods as well as mandatory crisis intervention techniques and de-escalation tactics with the mentally ill have now been implemented at the APD Police Academy with all sworn also having received the training.
7. APD has adopted a new system to hold officers and supervisors accountable for all use of force incidents with personnel procedures implemented detailing how use of force cases are investigated.
8. APD has revised and updated its policies on the mandatory use of lapel cameras by all sworn police officers.
9. The Repeat Offenders Project, known as ROP, has been abolished.
10. Police Oversight Board has been created, funded, fully staffed and a director has hired been hired and his contract renewed.
11. The Community Policing Counsels have been created in all area command and the counsels meet monthly.
12. The Mental Health Advisory Committee has been implemented.
13. The CASA identified that APD was severely understaffed. APD has gone from 850 sworn police to now 980 and intends to add an additional 300.
14. The federal monitors 10th report issued on November 1, reported APD met 100% of CASA-established primary compliance requirements during the reporting period. Secondary compliance rates (training) were reported at 81%, up from 79% and overall compliance rates are at 63%, the same as the 9th audit report.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is very problematic that only 600 polices officers are assigned to the field services and the six area commands that are dispatched and handling calls for service on a 24-hour basis. Uniformed police officers in the field services is where the “rubber hits the road.”
In order to have effective community policing, far more sworn police need to be in their cars and in the neighborhoods. At least 800 sworn police need to be in field services, 200 more than the 600 now assigned. A bike patrol does show police presence, but they are limited in what they can do to respond to a major call outs miles away. Having 16 officers on bikes patrolling streets and not in cars is questionable at a time there is such a shortage of field service officers.
The staffing of the investigative bureau at 173 sworn police is also very problematic. This bureau needs to be increased to at least 210 sworn police. This is the Bureau that has the Criminal Investigations Division, the Special Investigations Division and the Scientific Evidence Division. Part of the problem is once again the sure volume of felony cases such as murder, rape, violent crimes that need to be investigated. Confidential sources say the Scientific Evidence Division is particularly overwhelmed with the processing of DNA evidence taking months, such as the backlog in rape kits, that can mean the difference between a conviction and a dismissal of serious felony cases.
INCREASE THE SIZE OF HOMICIDE UNIT
Given the sure number of homicides and the homicide clearance rate, the Homicide Investigation Unit needs to be increased from 11 detectives to at least 25 detectives. Further, given the units low clearance rate and past performance, more needs to be done with respect to recruiting and training. One problem is that it takes years of grooming through various positions, from impact to robbery and burglary detectives, as sworn police “refine” their skills. APD is in a crisis mode and it needs to concentrate on recruiting seasoned homicide detectives from other departments if necessary.
At the very least, APD needs to ask for temporary assignment of personnel from other agencies such as the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Department or the State Police to help clear out the cases. The longer a homicide case takes to complete an investigation or is neglected because of lack of personnel, the less likely the cases will be solved and prosecuted. Adding to the crisis is the emotional toll an unsolved murder takes on the families of the victims.
NEGOTIATE DISMISSAL OF CASA
The CASA was negotiated to be fully implemented over a four-year period, and it now has been over 5 years. Under the CASA, once APD achieves a 95% compliance rate in all 3 compliance areas, the case can be dismissed. According to the Use of Force Report for the years 2017 and 2018, APD’s “use of force” and “deadly force” is down, which was the primary objective of the CASA reforms. APD has dedicated 61 sworn police, or 6.28% of the force to CASA compliance, including 40 detectives. It is likely many of the duties and responsibilities of the Compliance Burea do not have to be carried on by sworn police and could be accomplished with fewer detectives or by civilian investigators assigned to the city’s general counsel or internal audit department.
With the continued implementation of the DOJ reforms, especially those reforms involving the mentally ill, the spirit and intent of the CASA has been realized and for these reasons every effort should now be made to seek a dismissal of the federal lawsuit.
PROMISES MADE; PROMISES NOT KEPT
Tim Keller campaigned to get elected Mayor on the platform of implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms, increasing the size of APD, returning to community-based policing and a promise to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. No at all surprising, Mayor Tim Keller has tried repeatedly to take credit for crime rates being on the decline in all categories other than gun violence offenses.
Mayor Keller and APD have initiated programs such as declaring violent crime a “public health” issue in an effort to bring down violent crime rates and gun violence. It’ painfully obvious with 72 murders this year and counting, Keller’s policy of declaring violent crime “public health” issue has not had much of an effect. As the shootings, assaults and killings continue to rise, Keller is focused on the gun violence and the city’s murder rates, but time is running out for him despite his efforts.
VOTERS ARE A FICKLE LOT
Voters are very fickle and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. After two full years, APD is now Mayor Tim Keller’s Police Department and he cannot blame his predecessor for continuing increases in our crime rates. Mayor Keller is probably realizing that after 2 years in office that governing and law enforcement takes more than just a smile, condolences, press conferences, “nuance programs” and promises to get results.
It does take very aggressive tactical plans targeting violent repeat offenders, gangs, drug dealers, and repeat property crime offenders. If the Keller APD command staff he handpicked are not getting the job done, personnel changes are in order, including asking for more than a few resignations, starting with the APD command staff.
RUNNING FOR ANOTHER TERM
On December 1, 2019, it will be a full two years that Mayor Tim Keller has been in office. APD has now grown to 980 and counting with Keller hoping to add 300 more sworn police officers. Mayor Tim Keller has made impressive strides in returning to community-based policing, implementing the Department of Justice Court Agreed Settlement Agreement (CASA) reforms, has grown the APD to what will in all likely be 1,100 officers by the end of 2020, and has spent millions to get it all done. The problem is, all of Keller’s efforts have not been enough to bring the city’s murder rates down.
If you have been given everything you want and have asked for, and then some, and then start asking for yet $30 million more from the Governor and the New Mexico legislature to “modernize” your police department, sooner rather later people demand and want results.
What is becoming increasingly concerning for voters is that all the increases in APD budget and personnel and increases and new programs at APD are not having any effect on bringing down the violent crime and murder rates. It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel nor resources. It is now an issue of management, or mismanagement of resources, by Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier.
On November 5, election night, Keller announced he was running for another term. 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.
Voters can expect that violent crime rates and APD will once again be major issue in the 2021 municipal election for Mayor. Voters will be demanding results and expect more than just heartfelt condolences to families of murder victims and assurances APD is doing better and getting the job done when the statistics show otherwise and Albuquerque is still a violent city.
For related blog articles see: