In the United States, an estimated 16,214 people were murdered in 2018. This was a decrease from the 2017 murder estimates.
ALBUQUERQUE RANKS #40 FOR MURDERS IN TOP 65 MAJOR CITIES
On January 20, 2020 NBC News did a story on the murder rates of the 65 major cities having greater than 100,000 residents and listing them as the top deadliest cities in the United States. Albuquerque Ranked number 40 out of the 65 cities listed. According to the report, Albuquerque has 12.3 murders per 100,000 residents.
The top 10 deadliest cities for murder in 2018 are listed as follows:
1.St. Louis, Missouri: 60.9 murders per 100,000 residents
2.Baltimore Maryland: 51 murders per 100,000 residents
3.Detroit, Michigan: 38.9 murders per 100,000 residents
4.New Orleans, Louisiana: 37.1 murders per 100,000 residents
5.Baton Rouge, Louisiana: 35.1 murders per 100,000 residents
6.Memphis, Tennessee: 28.5 murders per 100,000 residents
7.Dayton, Ohio: 26.4 murders per 100,000 residents
8.Shreveport, Louisiana: 25 murders per 100,000 residents
9.West Palm Beach, Florida: 24.2 murders per 100,000 residents
10.Washington, DC: 22.8 murders per 100,000 residents
Other notable cities in the top 40 of the 65 cities include the following:
14. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 22.1 murders per 100,000 residents
15. Buffalo, New York: 22.1 murders per 100,000 residents
16. Chicago, Illinois: 20.7 murders per 100,000 residents
20. Cincinnati, Ohio: 18.9 murders per 100,000 residents
34. Rochester, NY: 14 murders per 100,000 residents
35. Orlando, Florida: 13.6 murders per 100,000 residents
37. Fort Wayne, Indiana: 14.9 murders per 100,000 residents
40. Albuquerque, New Mexico: 12.3 murders per 100,000 residents
You can review the entire list of 65 citys here:
It is likely that Albuquerque has gone up in the ranking as a result of the historical number of murders that occurred in 2019.
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 and have all increased. 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 but have risen none the less to all-time highs.
APD CLEARANCE RATE LOWEST IN 10 YEARS
The number of murders reported each year from 2008 to 2019 are:
On December 31, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) officially recorded the 82 homicide for the city, an all-time record. It was on December 9, 2019, the city recorded its 74th homicide breaking the previous record of 72 murders set in 2017. Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders. In addition to the 82 homicides in 2019, APD Homicide detectives are also working on a back log of active cases from previous years.
The 2019 murder victims include a high school student at a high school party, a Navy veteran who was shot and killed outside a Central Grill by someone trying to steal his bike, a UNM college baseball player killed outside a popular restaurant and bar, and the mother of two New Mexico State Police officers who was shot and killed in her car parked in her driveway as she was getting ready to go to the gym.
On January 1, 2020, APD reported the first homicide of the year. So far, the city has had 4 homicides in 20 days that APD is investigating.
According to a January 20 Channel 7 news report, APD’s homicide unit has solved 43 out of the 82 of the murder cases or 52.4%, 39 cases remain unsolved or 47.6% with 37 arrests made in the murders committed in 2019.
The homicide clearance percentage has been in the 50%-60% range for the past two years. 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%. The clearance rate for 2019 is now at 52.5%, the lowest clearance rate in the last decade.
A STABBING TOO CLOSE TO HOME
During the beginning of my 42 years of practicing law, I began as a narcotics prosecutor with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. I was later employed as an Assistant District Attorney and assigned to the Violent Crimes Division of the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office working for then Republican District Attorney Steve Schiff who later became our Congressman. Years later, I became Chief Deputy District Attorney appointed by then Democrat District Attorney Jeff Romero with supervisor authority over the Violent Crimes Division. I have indicted and tried murder cases and know the importance of evidence gathering to prove a case and to get a conviction. My family has lived in City Council District 7, formerly District 5, since 1979, my wife and I raised a family and now we are fully retired. We have lived in the same home since 1989. Our area of the City now has some the highest crime rates for home break-ins and recently a murder occurred down the street in an apartment complex.
During his January 21, 2020 interview with Channel 7, Mayor Tim Keller had this to say:
“When it comes to homicide, I know there’s real frustration, and actually we feel it too, having my own family. … And I know what it feels like to not feel safe, even in the place where you worship or where our kids go to school.”
On Friday, October 31, 2019, my wife and I returned home around 8:30 pm at night and saw a number of APD vehicles down the street with their flashing lights on and with yellow “crime scene tape” used to cordon off the street and the area. The next day at approximately 11:00 am, I left my home and saw a “Univision” TV reporter, who I knew, at the scene taking footage. I stopped and asked him what was going on and he said the night before a stabbing occurred, the suspect was reported running north on the street towards my home, the victim was a neighbor and a retired police officer and was in critical condition. The neighbor apparently was trying to run off someone in the area, had gotten into an altercation and that person pulled a knife on him.
I got out of my car and as I was talking to the reporter, we both noticed blood on the sidewalk, a small pool of blood in the gutter and a number of very large blood spots in the street. As I began to look around, I discovered a red rag that obviously had a large amount of blood on it. For about 15 minutes I attempted to call 242-COPS, the APD Spokesperson and even Mayor Keller and got no answer. During this time, one of the business owners in the area showed up and said he had just talked to an APD Detective investigating the stabbing. I was given the Detectives number and I also tried to contact the Detective by phone and left a message.
By sure coincidence, two plain clothes APD Detectives showed up doing follow up investigation from the night before. They were shown the blood on the street and sidewalk as well as the rag with blood. I told one of the Detectives, that I felt the bloody rag should be collected, tagged into evidence and processed. The Detective responded immediately that it was not necessary to do that in that they knew whose blood it was. I tersely said, “no you do not know whose blood it is” and he quickly said I was right. I then requested that the rag be collected, tagged into evidence and processed. The Detective agreed and said he would call someone to do just that. I gave the Detective my business card but never heard from him with any kind of follow up. I did take photos on my cell phone of the blood in the street, sidewalk and the bloody rag.
There were three major concerns about the APD’s detective conduct:
1. Why was the bloody rag not collected and tagged into evidence the night before and why would any detective presume APD knew whose blood was on the rag? The blood on the rag could have belong to the suspect or for that matter another victim. The bloody rag needed to be tagged into evidence and processed to see if it is connected to the stabbing.
2. Were any samples of the fresh blood in the street or on the sidewalk taken for processing and identification?
3. Given the amount of blood in the streets and on the sidewalk, why was the Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Hazmat not called out to disinfect the area or at least to wash off the blood on the sidewalk and in the street? To my understanding this is APD standard operating procedure when dealing with blood in the public area and this has not changed. There are children in the area and if the blood was contaminated it would have been a health risk.
The Mayor and the Chief were emailed and notified of what happened, but they never responded personally. However,an APD’s spokesman responded to the email and said the bloody rag was indeed tagged into evidence and stated Albuquerque Fire and Rescue had been called out to wash off the blood the evening of the incident, but never showed up. No information was given as to why nor as to the condition of my neighbor
Violent crime prosecutors know the importance of APD being thorough in the collection of evidence, especially blood evidence, that can make or break a case. Relevance of such evidence needs to be decided by judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys, not sworn police whose job is to collect evidence and not decide what is relevant.
What happened at the crime scene near my home has way too many similarities identical to the bloody underwear of a 9-year-old child found by one of the child’s teachers who tried to turn the evidence over to APD and the evidence was tossed by APD instead.
CHIEF GEIER SAYS “GENERALLY IT’S A SAFE CITY”
On January 16, KOB 4’s news anchor Steve Soliz sat down with Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier to see what APD is doing to tackle the city’s crime crisis. The interview is part of a series of stories by Channel 4 to cover the city’s crime problem and to ask our leaders what is being done. The link to the channel 4 interview is here:
Instead of expressing any kind of outrage and showing no kind of real emotion or frustration and saying what he is doing, we have a police chief in a very quiet, meek voice and in a “matter of fact manner” say APD is doing all it can with the resources it has and saying some progress has been made with auto thefts.
The real jaw dropper was when Cheif Geier was asked what he would say to someone who has concerns for the city, who has lived here for some time and who feels the city is no longer the city they once knew. Geier said he would tell them “Generally, its a safe city” and went on to say all the crime is being done in certain “pockets” of the city that are targeted. He said APD is making an effort with the limited resources it has, but saying that is no excuse, but sounding like it was an excuse.
SIX VIOLENT CRIME INITIATIVES ANNOUNCED IN 10 MONTHS
On December 18, 2019 US Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is initiating a major crackdown aimed at driving down violent crime in 7 of the nation’s most violent cities in the country. He named the initiative “Operation Relentless Pursuit”. Not at all surprising is that Albuquerque is one of those cities. The other 6 cities are Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee. All 7 cities have violent crime rates significantly higher and above the national average.
The federal agencies that will participate and be involved are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Marshals Service. The DOJ will intensify federal law enforcement resources in the 7 cities by increasing the number of federal law enforcement officers in each of the cities and add additional officers to federal task forces. According to Barr, the DOJ is committing up to $71 million in federal grant funds that can help fund the task forces, be used to hire new police officers, pay overtime and purchase new equipment and technology.
According to Attorney General William Bar, Albuquerque has a violent crime rate that is 3.7 times the national average per capita , and the cities aggravated assaults are 4 times the national average per capita.
Mayor Keller and Chief Michael Geier have announced 5 separate programs within 10 months to combat our city’s violent crime and murder rates. Four programs announced last year are: the Shield Unit, Declaring Violent Crime “public health” issue, “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP) and the Metro 15, yet Chief Geier says “Generally, it’s a safe city”. On January 20, 2020, Mayor Keller announced yet another anti-crime initiative called RAPID accountability program.
APD WORKING ON LONG TERM SOLUTIONS
Albuquerque Police Department (APD) are saying they are working on new strategies to ease the workload on APD sworn officers and homicide detectives. During an October, 2019 City Council meeting, APD Commander of Criminal Investigations Joe Burke had this to say:
“I would say in the long term if I was looking at a long-term solution—I believe we need two homicide units. I think the best practices around the nation normally have two homicide units. Detectives should be balancing between three to five investigations and we’re nearly double that. … We absolutely need detectives in criminal investigations. …
I was happy when I went over at the end of July and was briefed on the status of the unit that there’s a plan in place within the executive staff that when cadets are graduating from the academy that we’re going to get a certain percentage specifically for the criminal investigations bureau.”
STRUGGLING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH LITTLE PROGRESS
Since Mayor Tim Keller took office on December 1, 2017, APD has added 116 sworn police officers to the force. Keller wants to spend $88 million dollars 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 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 Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier have increased the homicide unit from 5 to 11. This is the most detectives they’ve had in the unit in more than 20 years. There are now 10 detectives with one opening and one sergeant.
Burke acknowledged that the clearance rate is unacceptable and nowhere near where they want to be in solving all the murders by saying:
“It is a high number [of unsolved cases] and we recognize that. … We always want to be at 100% and anything less is unacceptable. … We need help from the community. We need witnesses. We need people who potentially have information for us so we can follow up and help solve some of these homicides and hold people accountable. … Just know that we have leads [on the two recent murders] and we’re following up on those leads. They’re good leads. We’re confident we’re going to be able to hold people accountable in those investigations.”
APD command staff have said it would be ideal to have more homicide detectives to solve cases. APD is also trying to expand other units for gang operations and a gun violence reduction unit. A new cadet class is expected to graduate in spring 2020 with upwards of 50 new sworn police. Mayor Keller has said that APD is on track to have 100 new sworn in 2020.
HISTORY OF BOTCHED HOMICIDE INVESTIGATIONS
The APD Homicide Unit has a dubious history of botching 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.
The most egregious negligent murder investigation was the murder investigation of 10-year-old Victoria Martens. On August 24, 2016, she was murdered, dismembered and her body was burned in a bathtub. After a full year of 3 defendants being in custody, further investigation revealed that Jessica Kelley did not murder the child. Michelle Martens falsely admitted to committing the crimes. 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 was an unidentified 4th suspect in the case who committed the murder with supposedly DNA evidence found on the child’s dead body. The unidentified 4th suspect in the case is still at large.
The most recent botched homicide investigation was when on December 5, 17-year-old Albuquerque High School Student Gisell Estrada was arrested and charged with a murder she played no part in. She was never arrested before and had absolutely no criminal record of arrest and conviction of any crime, misdemeanor nor felony. She spent 6 full days in jail on a case of “mistaken identity.”
YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE TO WATER
Sources have confirmed that the firm “Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services” were retained in the summer of 2019 year on a three-month, sole source contract for $75,000 to train the APD homicide unit on investigations, evidence gathering and follow-up. All APD sergeants, detectives and lieutenants, who investigate and supervise violent crime investigations, were given the training. A total of 126 APD personnel went through and completed the training and instructions provided by a former retired APD homicide detective now with “Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services”. The former APD Detective has been involved with investigations of high profile murder cases in the country.
Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services reviewed the arrest warrant regarding the 17-year-old high school girl Gisell Estrada arrested and jailed for a murder she did not commit because of a case of mistaken identity by the APD Homicide unit. Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services concluded it went against everything APD officers had been trained on.
The firm stated they could provide no reason why the homicide division made such “colossal” mistakes contrary to all they had been trained and the arrest could have been prevented had the detective followed basic follow up practices to confirm identity. Instead, the detective ran with the information he had without even an attempt to verify, either out of being lazy or incompetence.
Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Michael Geier have yet to announce and personnel action against the investigating officer.
UPDATE ON HOMICIDE CLEARANCE RATE
On Sunday, February 23rd, 2020, it was reported that although there has been a dramatic surge in the number of homicides, the percentage of those solved by arrest has dropped significantly. In 2019, the city reached a historical 82 homicides compared to 30 in 2014.
According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos the homicide unit has 11 detectives and one sergeant. In 2017, APD had 5 detective and one sergeant. APD officials claim that the homicides are being vigorously investigated and detectives are following numerous leads. However, APD does not maintain collective data to show how many murders over the years have gone unsolved. As for caseloads, some APD homicide detectives have fewer than 10 cases each. According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos
“Others with the most years in homicide may have more than 20, which includes cases that may be three, four or five years old and awaiting new leads. ” Gallegos stated.
The city’s APD yearly budget contains performance evaluation statistics mandated by the city’s “performance evaluation” based budget. According to city budget documents, APD’s homicide clearance rate as reported in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, was around 80% from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2016. In each of the last two calendar years, the percentage of homicides solved in the city dropped to about 50%, according to APD data. That number reflects homicides that weren’t deemed justifiable. The overall clearance rate for 2018 and 2019 was is higher because detectives solved nine homicides from prior years.
APD maintains a website showing “Active Homicide Investigations.” But the website lists just 25 cases, which occurred from January 2018 to August 2018.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Mayor Keller, this city is long past feeling a sense of “frustration” as you put it, but is feeling downright anger because this is no longer a safe city, even though your police chief says “generally it’s a safe city”. You are probably a lot safer than the citizens you represent given the APD police detail that follows you everywhere you go. As Mayor, I suggest you get angry with your appointed command staff in that they are not getting the job done. The city is not even the city it was 10 years ago with our skyrocketing and out of control crime rates, something you pledged to bring down during your 18-month campaign for Mayor.
Mayor Tim Keller for the last two years has been given essentially everything he has asked for from city council for public safety – and then some. What is very troubling is that all the increases in APD budget, personnel and new programs are having no effect on bringing down the violent crime and murder rates. It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel or resources, but of a failed personnel resource management issue.
With a 52.4% clearance rate and a backlog of cases, the Keller Administration needs to increase the Homicide Unit significantly more than by 5 to 11, especially when the commander in charge of the unit is saying two separate units are needed. 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.
Given the sure number of homicides and the pathetic homicide clearance rate, the Homicide Investigation Unit needs to be increased by at least another 5 detectives for a total of 16 detectives, with two separate units of 8, one for the most current homicides and the second for older back logged cases. Further, given the units low clearance rate and past performance, more needs to be done with respect to recruiting and doubling down on training.
APD is in a crisis mode and it needs to concentrate on recruiting seasoned homicide detectives from other departments if necessary. The New Mexico State Police and the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s office needs to be solicited for help to assign some it personnel to APD for homicide investigation.
Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier need to recognize the fiasco the APD homicide unit has become. APD saying it is “still working on a long-term solution” is no longer acceptable.
When it comes to murders, the State of New Mexico is not doing much better than the City.
NEW MEXICO RANKS #7 NATIONALLY FOR MURDER
A July 16, 2019, USA Today report found that in 2018, the State of New Mexico ranked #7 of the states for murder with 7.1 murders per 100,000 residents. The state had the second highest violent crime rate at 783.5 per 100,000 residents. The states incarceration rate was 344 per 100,000 residents, the 22nd lowest and in 2018 an unemployment rate of 4.9%, the 3rd highest in the country
According to the USA Report:
“Along with Alaska, New Mexico is the only other state where violent crimes are over twice as common as they are nationwide. There were 783.5 reported incidents of violent crime for every 100,000 people in the state in 2017 compared to 382.9 per 100,000 nationwide. Other types of crime classified as property crimes are also common in the state. For example, New Mexico tops the list of states with the most break ins. Crime is often more common in areas with limited economic opportunity. In New Mexico, 4.9% of the labor force was out of work in 2018, the third highest unemployment rate among states, trailing only Alaska and West Virginia.”
You can read the full report on all states here:
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