On November 19 and 26, Mayor Keller held press conferences regarding his Violence Intervention Program (VIP) and his “Metro 15” program, the 3rd and 4th programs within 9 months to deal with the City’s violent crime and murder rates. At the time of both press conferences, the city’s homicide count was at 72, matching the city’s record in 2017. Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year.
Mayor Keller announced that he plans on asking New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico State Legislature for $30 million in funding during the upcoming 2020 legislative session to “modernize” APD’s data reporting system. Keller said $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.
On Sunday, December 1, the Albuquerque Journal ran a front-page story that all the crime rate reductions Keller reported in his July 1, 2019 press conference were in fact seriously flawed and inflated showing dramatic reductions in crime not at all accurate. According to the report, both the 2019 mid-year statistics and the statistics released at the end of 2018 were revised dramatically to include hundreds, and in some cases thousands, more incidents than were reported initially. The final numbers for all of 2018 showed violent crime actually increased.
At an October meeting of the City Council, APD provided the revised statistics to it but failed to report that the numbers had changed drastically no doubt believing no one would notice. Mayor Keller also did not hold any kind of a press conference to correct and announce the corrected statistics. The Keller Administration blamed the false numbers on antiquated software programs, but only after the Keller Administration had essentially been caught by the Albuquerque Journal.
The corrected statistics are as follows:
Auto burglaries decreased 16%, not 38% as previously announced
Auto theft decreased 22%, not 39% as Keller reported
Commercial burglary decreased 3%, not the 27% Keller reported
Residential burglary decreased 16%, not 39% as Keller reported
Homicide decreased 2.5%, not 18%, but homicides have since increased substantially and the city has tied the all-time record of 71.
Rape decreased 3%, not the 29% Keller reported
Robbery decreased 30%, not 47% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault decreased 7.5%, not 33% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault increased 21%, rather than decreasing 8% as announced during Keller’s July news conference
Rape increased by 3%, rather than decreasing 3%
Auto theft decreased 14%, not the 31% reported by Keller
Homicides remained basically the same decreasing by a single murder
Robbery decreased 32% and Keller reported it decreasing by 36%
Mayor Keller blamed the inaccurate statistics on different software programs that are antiquated and that are not very conducive to pulling crime statistics on a real time basis. The statistic fiasco could conceivably jeopardize federal grant funding for law enforcement that is often in the millions. The feds rely on the stats for the award of grants and funding.
ANOTHER PRESS CONFERENCE, ANOTHER PLEA FOR FUNDING
On December 2, within 24 hours after the Albuquerque’ Journal story on the flawed statistics, Mayor Keller held yet another press conference to reveal his legislative priorities for the upcoming 2020 New Mexico Legislative session that starts in January. Keller said his top priority will again be public safety. His requests include $10 million for his violence intervention programs and $20 million for modernizing crime fighting technology.
In addressing the city’s violent crime rates Keller said:
“Violent crime is still Albuquerque’s biggest challenge, and New Mexico’s biggest challenge, even as we have made strides fighting other crimes like auto theft and robbery … We’re facing that reality with evidence-based violence reduction and tough on crime policing, and with the State’s help we can take another step towards making New Mexico’s largest metro area safer. … For us, we know that the pain and the violence that we’ve seen, one we have to acknowledge that this has been with us a long time, and what we are going to do is everything we can to try and do something about it.”
Keller attempted to explain the problem with the statistics fiasco, blamed the inaccurate statistics on different software programs that are antiquated and made another pitch for money from the legislature to update the city’s crime fighting technology.
The breakdown of the $20 million ask by Mayor Keller to bring Albuquerque’s crime-fighting technology up to date includes:
$13 million for CAD / Records Management System;
$1.2 million for Video Management Software;
$2.5 million for Crime Scene Response, including a new crime scene bus;
$1.2 million to update the Laboratory Information Management System;
$250,000 in upgrades to the Evidence Warehouse;
$810,000 for Latent Fingerprint Section improvement;
$320,000 for Automated License Plate Readers;
$150,000 for Firearms & Toolmarks Technology;
$370,000 to upgrade DNA equipment; and
$100,000 for a ballistic water tank replacement.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Candidate Tim Keller campaigned to get elected Mayor on the platform of increasing the size of APD, returning to community-based policing and a promise to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. After two full years in office with two years remaining, Mayor Tim Keller has not made the significant progress he promised to reduce crime contrary to his repeated claims that crime rates are on the decline in all categories. Further, Mayor Keller has been taking the approach of announcing new initiatives to reduce violent crime after violent crimes shocking the community are reported.
Mayor Keller’s goal is to spend $88 million dollars starting 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.
Mayor Keller has essentially been given everything he has wanted for public safety and then some. Keller is now asking for $20 million more from the Governor and the New Mexico legislature to “modernize” the police department records keeping. The request is being made 18 months after Keller signed into law a gross receipt increase enacted by the city council that raised gross receipts taxes by $60 million a year and breaking his promise not to raise taxes, even for public safety, without a public vote. It also comes after a mere seven months after the City announced in April a onetime $34.4 million dollar windfall, called an “orphan month”, as a result of a change in accounting policy to align the city finances and accounting practices with state government financing and nearly all other governmental entities. It also comes two months after Keller submitted a $29 million dollar lodger’s tax and the City Council approved on October 7 a $30.5 million “Sports -Tourism” lodger tax package on a unanimous vote to upgrade and build sports facilities throughout the city.
LAW ENFORCEMENT IS MORE THAN PUBLIC RELATIONS
The Statistics Fiasco is a lot more serious than what Keller wants to let on. The City relies heavily on Federal Law enforcement grants often in the millions to conduct operations and fund programs. That federal funding is based upon the statistics that the city provides to the FBI. It is more than just possible but highly likely the feds will withdraw funding or for that matter demand refunds of funding if the city is submitting bogus and inflated crime statistics. At worst, what happened with the statistics was downright deceptive and at best down right sneaky, especially when APD gives the accurate statistics to the City Council a full two months before the mistakes were made public and not bringing it to the attention of the council and the public.
With the announcement of 4 separate programs within 9 months to combat our city’s violent crime and murder rates, Mayor Keller is looking desperate to portray himself as being proactive. Mayor Tim Keller is probably realizing that after 2 years in office that governing, law enforcement and reducing crime rates takes more than his trademark grin, condolences, expressions of empathy, press conferences, “nuance programs”, data collection and even more promises to get results. Keller is beginning to look foolish when he holds press conference, after press conference, after press conference to announce new programs that are in fact programs that are nothing more than the renaming or rebranding of existing programs and asking for more money.
What is very 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. Do not expect Keller’s VIP program or Metro 15 Program to be any different. It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel nor resources. It is now a failed personnel resource management issue. It’s time for Mayor Tim Keller to take stock, recognize APD is not getting the job done, reorganize APD and terminate a few of the command staff.
During a November 5 election night radio interview, Tim Keller made it known he is running for a second term in 2021. It is painfully obvious with 72 murders this year and counting, Keller’s policies have 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 all of his efforts. The City’s crime rates and APD will once again be a defining issue in the 2021 race for Mayor.
Voters are very fickle and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. Sooner rather than later people demand and want results. No amount of data collection, public relations or nuance programs are going to satisfy those demands or make people feel safe. A campaign based on “Give me more time and another chance to do good” is not a winning strategy, especially after what Keller promised when he was running the first time and what is still happening with violent crime.
Mayor Tim Keller’s biggest problem is his inability or reluctance to hold his APD command staff accountable for failures, ostensibly out of a sense of extreme loyalty. The Mayor Keller and Chief Geier relationship appears to be identical to that of Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Gordon Eden relationship. In the end, Keller and Geier just may leave city hall in two years under similar public distain as Berry and Geier did two years ago ending the political career of another Mayor.