On Tuesday, November 26, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier held a press conference to announce a 4th program within 9 months to deal with the city’s violent crime and murder rates. On December 9, 2019, the city recorded its 74th homicide, the all time record of homicides in one year in the city’s history. The previous record was in 2017 with 72 murders. Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year.
Keller dubbed the new program “Metro 15 Operation”. It is part of the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) program Keller announced the week before. According to Keller and Geier the new program will target the top 15 most violent offenders in Albuquerque. In other words, it’s the city’s version of the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. According to Keller, the top 15 are identified by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office and other agencies. Once a violent offender is caught, another violent offender will be added to the list.
According to APD Chief Geier, the Metro 15 the operation is different from similar tactics because the agencies, including the Attorney General’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Office of Superintendent of Insurance, and state Probation and Parole, have narrowed their focus to where they believe they’ll have the most impact and identifying people for the list. Chief Geier also said APD will be tracking down the Metro 15 by visiting their addresses and former addresses, knocking on doors and talking to friends and relatives.
FIRST “METRO 15” ANNOUNCED
On Thursday, December 12, the Albuquerque Police Department released the first of the 15 most wanted suspects. The names of 3 of the most wanted were submitted by the Office of Superintendent of Insurance and 10 names on the Metro 15 list were provided by Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez’ office. According to Adolfo Mendez, the chief of policy and planning with the DA’s Office:
“To identify individuals for the list, our office reviewed defendants with a violent history who had active warrants and a viable open case. … A primary consideration was whether our office had previously moved to detain the individual. We subjected each warrant to a vetting process to verify the status of the warrant and evaluated the strength of the available evidence.”
The “Metro 15” were identified as follows:
• Jesus Cereceres-Trijo
• Chantelle Tapia
• Lawrence Chavez
• Daniel Drake
• Edward Laird
• Gerald Marquez
• Manuel Ortega
• Eric Peralta
• Russell Kimber
• Santana Downey
• John Trujillo
• Ahmad Williams
• Richard Howell
• Michelle Glascock
• Jamil Lewis
It turns out authorities already had made an arrest of one of suspects 10 days before. Edward Laird, 54, has been in the the Santa Fe County jail since Dec. 2 on warrants related to property crime cases. The name of Edward Laird was submitted by the Office of Superintendent of Insurance but Laird’s warrant had not cleared from the system.
On December 19, the Albuquerque Police Department announced it has arrested four people from its first group of Metro 15.
The most recent arrest was that of 21-year-old Jamil Lewis who had previously been wanted under the Analysis-Led Recidivism Team (ALeRT) program that identified serious repeat offenders. According to an APD spokesman, Lewis has been wanted for multiple felony warrants since September 2019 on charges of receiving and transferring a stolen motor vehicle, racketeering, possession of a controlled substance, and most recently was charged with drug trafficking.
The other three Metro 15 offenders who were arrested include Manuel Ortega and Eric Peralta, and Edward Laird who had been arrested 10 days before the first Metro 15 list was issued.
APD and the District Attorney’s office has yet to identify replacements for the 4 arrested.
“METRO 15” NOT ALL VIOLENT
The Metro 15 is supposed to be a list of the most wanted “violent offenders” in Albuquerque that are on the loose. The goal is to advertise their names to the public in hopes of securing tips so APD and law enforcement can make an arrest.
According to Violence Intervention Division APD Commander Mizel Garcia the suspects are considered “drivers of violence” who have a connection to guns and gun crimes and he explained it this way:
“I [give] the example of … the burglar who is breaking into homes … specifically targeting weapons and in turn selling them to either other known offenders, violent offenders and potentially gang members. … This is a driver of violence, because he’s providing these weapons. Plus, the subject himself has a background of crimes against our community.”
In an Albuquerque Journal report, it was found that three of the “most violent” offenders in Albuquerque were given to APD by the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance (OSI). A review of court documents that the Metro 15 appear to be wanted on warrants stemming from a range of charges, including shooting at or from a motor vehicle, armed robbery and drug possession.
According to the article “Two didn’t appear for arraignments and another suspect cut off a GPS monitor and never showed up to court. One pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in 2002 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released and has since violated probation multiple times, according to court documents.”
RE-BRANDING OF EXISTING PROGRAM EFFORTS
Much of the “Metro 15” is nothing more than a re-branding and is similar to other programs Keller announced and in particular the “Shield Unit” and the “Alert Program.
THE SHIELD UNIT
In February 2018 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) created the “Shield Unit”. The Shield Unit assists APD Police Officers to prepare cases for trial and prosecution by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office. The unit originally consisted of 3 paralegals. It was announced that it is was expanded to 12 under the 2019-2020 city budget that took effect July 1, 2019.
According to a June 6, 2019 press release issued by the city expanding the Shield Program:
“In addition to providing police reports [to the DA’s office], the unit orders and provides the audio from 911 calls and dispatch logs, all reports and dispatch records mentioned in any report, all documents referenced, copies of any photos/CDs/DVDs/USBs which are tagged into evidence, and copies of any items tagged into evidence which can be copied, … They often contact businesses for any surveillance video of events, and receipts for damage which occurred. All of this together provides the DA with a solid case to prosecute.”
The city press release proclaimed that throughout 2018, the Shield Unit provided discovery documents for 2,871 felony cases and in 2019 it has provided discovery for 2,787 felony cases. The Shield Unit works on felony cases for officers across the department, except in cases involving homicide, vehicular homicide, gangs and vice. The unit is expected to work on discovery for about 6,000 cases by the end of the year.
THE AleRT Program
Over two years ago, the previous Republican administration created the ALeRt Program to work in conjunction with the City’s Real Time Crime Center. ALeRT stands for Analysis-Led Recidivism Team. Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI partner for the project and it is based out of the City’s Real Time Crime Center.
The AleRT program is a team of crime analysts working at APD headquarters whose aim is to quickly flag people who are arrested that police considered “habitual offenders” and alert prosecutors and detectives so that they can aggressively prosecute the case. Fifty people were originally flagged by ALeRT analysts. To narrow the list of targets, the team consider only the previous three years when studying a person’s criminal history to see if he or she should be flagged upon arrest.
At the time of its creation, APD officials said the habitual offenders in the ALeRT system had been arrested on felony charges about 350 times in the previous three years. Repeated arrests, especially arrests for violent crimes and crimes that are increasing in Albuquerque, such as auto theft, can land someone on the ALeRT list.
It was on June 13, 2017 that the success of the ALeRT program was hailed by the previous Republican Administration as APD’s answer to repeat offenders when two repeat offenders were arrested under the program.
Two years later and on April 12, 2019 it was reported that the ALeRt program still exists. According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos:
“It’s working really well … essentially, it’s a something driven by our real-time crime center but involves a great partnership with a lot of different folks.”
According to Gallegos, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of repeat offenders getting convicted as a result of the program. Additionally, the program prioritizes suspects accused of stealing cars or violent crimes.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Mayor Keller and Chief Michael Geier have now announced 4 separate programs within nine months to combat our city’s violent crime and murder rates. Those programs are:
1. THE SHIELD UNIT
2. DECLARING VIOLENT CRIME “PUBLIC HEALTH” ISSUE
3. “VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PLAN” (VIP)
4. THE “METRO 15”
Both Mayor Keller are beginning to look desperate to portray themselves as being proactive when they announce new programs within days after major crime news. They also are beginning to look foolish when they hold press conference after press conference to announce new programs that are nothing more than re-branding of existing programs, such as the “Shield” and ALeRT programs, and calling it the “Metro 15.”
Sooner rather than later, citizens 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.
Perhaps with the arrest of 4 of the Metro 15, the Keller Administration has finally hit on a successful program to help bring the City’s violent and murder rates down, even though it’s a re-branding of already implemented programs.