This blog article is a deep dive analysis report on APD’s Homicide Clearance Rate and APD’s unacceptable response times that are placing people at risk and endangering public safety. The blog article covers many topics, including staffing levels, initiatives to bring down violent crime, performance measures. Recommendations are also made on what should be done.
On Sunday, March 1, the Albuquerque Journal editorialized on the homicide clearance rate. The full editorial can be found in the postscript to this blog article with a link to it.
APD HOMICIDE CLEARANCE RATE AT HISTORICAL LOW, DROPS FROM 80% TO 52%
On Sunday, February 23rd, 2020, it was reported that there has been a dramatic surge in the number of homicides and the percentage of those solved by arrest has dropped dramatically.” In 2019, the city had a historical high of 82 homicides in one year with a 52% solve rate. From January 1, to February 01, the city had 8 homicides, the same number of homicides as in January, 2019. On February 22 and 22, three more homicides were reported in the city with arrests yet to be made.
Below are links to the news coverage:
APD STAFFING AND CASE LOADS
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 and still considered open cases. 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. ”
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 reported in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report was 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 52%. That number reflects homicides that weren’t deemed justifiable. The overall clearance rate for 2018 and 2019 was is slightly higher because detectives solved 9 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.
ALBUQUERQUE RANKS #40 FOR MURDERS IN TOP 65 MAJOR CITIES
In the United States, an estimated 16,214 people were murdered in 2018. This was a decrease from the 2017 murder estimates.
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 cities here:
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. Like a waive on a beach, it has “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 82nd 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 that were committed 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. As of February 23, the city has had at least 11 homicides 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 that occurred in 2019 or 52.4%. Thirty-nine (39) of those cases remain unsolved or 47.6% with 37 arrests made in the murders committed in 2019.
For the past two years, the homicide clearance percentage rate has been in the 50%-60% range. 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.
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 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.
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.
The federal agencies that will 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.
SANCTUARY CITY VERSUS IMMIGRANT FRIENDLY CITY
Complicating the City of Albuquerque from receiving any federal law enforcement funding is that the United States Department of Justice is now threatening to withhold millions in federal funding from APD because it has classified Albuquerque as a “Sanctuary City.” Some City Councilors and APD management accused the Justice Department of political gamesmanship and “politcal extortion” by withholding millions of dollars in federal funds over the city’s “sanctuary city status” that prevents the sharing of information with immigration authorities.
United States Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson wrote a guest editorial column in the Albuquerque Journal saying the additional federal funding would come with conditions, including complying with a federal law that makes it illegal to prevent government employees from sharing information about peoples’ immigration status with federal law enforcement. U.S. Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson said he believes the conditions the DOJ is asking Albuquerque to comply with are reasonable. To be eligible to receive roughly $10 million in grant funding, the city must agree to the conditions that it will allow a federal audit of the forms city employees fill out saying they’re legally allowed to work in the United States and it won’t prohibit departments or employees from providing information to immigration authorities.
According to Anderson:
“The issue of the sanctuary city status comes in because before a state or local police department – for example, APD – can receive those federal funds they have to certify certain compliance with federal immigration laws … Their refusal to sign the certification has precluded the city from receiving grant funding.”
APD Deputy Chief Harold Medina denounced the DOJ’s position as “political extortion” saying:
“The federal government had decided to send in resources – which we gladly want to work with – to assist us to lower these crime rates. … It’s kind of feels like political extortion that now they’re trying to give us limitations of how we can access this federal funding that we need to help keep the citizens of Albuquerque safe.”
Democratic Councilor Pat Davis, one of the main sponsors of the resolution clarifying the City as an “immigrant friendly” city had this to say:
“We just won’t do that. They’re using this as a political stunt. … To deliberately withhold money that they say will help Albuquerque because we don’t want to sign off on an unconnected, unrelated political agenda in the president’s election year is just blatantly political bullying, … And we’re not going to play ball with that. There is nothing at all in the way we fail to ask for immigrant status for letting kids into after-school programs that has anything to do with immigration or lowering crime.”
The truth is, Albuquerque has never been a “sanctuary city” as the Department of Justice in now proclaiming. The confusion stems from the Albuquerque City Council enacting a resolution approximately 10 years ago declaring Albuquerque an “Immigrant Friendly” City that offers city services to all immigrants regardless of their United State citizenship status. The resolution was originally sponsored by former Republican City Councillor Hess Yntema whose wife is an immigrant. In April 2018, the City Council passed a resolution strengthening Albuquerque’s status as an immigrant-friendly city. The resolution says no municipal resources will be used to identify an individual’s immigration status, the city will not collect any information on a person’s immigration status, except when necessary, and if it collects that information it’s prohibited from disclosing it unless the city is served with a warrant.
Mayor Tim Keller has yet to announce or take a position on the DOJ’s threat to withhold the millions in funding.
APD PROCLAIMS WORKING ON LONG TERM SOLUTIONS
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:
1. The Shield Unit, Declaring Violent Crime “public health” issue,
2. “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP) and the Metro 15.
3. On January 20, 2020, Mayor Keller announced yet another anti-crime initiative called RAPID accountability program.
Despite the 3 new initiatives, Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is saying it is 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, but that is simply not enough given the clearance rates.
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.”
93% INCREASE IN APD 911 RESPONSE TIMES SINCE 2011: 48 MINUTES IS AVERAGE TIME OF ARRIVAL
On February 20th KOAT TV Target 7 reported on an investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD’s) response times. The report revealed an alarming level of time it takes APD to respond to 911 emergency calls. The time it takes for APD to respond to priority 1 calls in all likely has a major impact on increasing physical injury to victims or callers. It was reported that it takes APD 23 minutes longer to get to an emergency call than it did 8 years ago. There has been an astonishing 93% increase since 2011 with response times getting worse every year since.
In 2011, the average response time to all calls, whether it was a life or death emergency or a minor traffic crash was 25 minutes. In 2019, that time period spiked to 48 minutes in the average response time.
ALARM CALLS TO BE DROPPED FROM APD CALLS FOR SERVICE
Confidential sources within APD have confirmed that APD command staff will be initiating a new policy where “calls for service” to burglar alarm calls will no longer be responded to with no reports to be written. The primary reason for the policy change is the high rate of “false alarms” which is said to approach 95%. After a first false alarm call, under the “false alarm ordinance, fines are leveled for repeated false alarms.
UNDERLYING CAUSE OF DELAYS
The main reason for the dramatic increase in response times is a reduction in the number of sworn police with a corresponding increase in calls for service and 911 emergency calls. When you examine APD’s manpower levels over the past nine years, response times were quicker when there were more sworn police assigned to the field services.
On December 1, 2009, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was staffed at 1,100 sworn police officers. At the time, APD was the best trained, best funded, best equipped and best staffed in the history of the police department. The city’s overall crime rates were significantly lower than they are today.
For the full 8 years from December 1, 2009 to December 1, 2017, APD spiraled down wards as a result of poor management, budget cuts, police salary cuts and an investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) resulting in a finding of a “culture of aggression” within the department. The DOJ investigation resulted in a federal lawsuit and a consent decree mandating major reforms to APD and included the appointment of a federal monitor. When Mayor Keller took office on December 1, 2017, APD had plunged to approximately 870 full time police officers and the numbers went down even further to 830 at one time.
Early 2011, APD was staffed with nearly 1,100 sworn police officers. In 2011, it took an average of 25 minutes for an officer to respond to a 911 emergency call. It was in 2016 that APD’s manpower dropped. Currently, APD has about 950 to 970 officers.
As of January 1, 2020, according to pay stubs on file with the city, APD has 950 sworn police officers. The loss of 22 sworn police can be attributed to retirements and the Police Academy not keeping up with replacing officers. There is an APD Academy Class in session that should result in 35 to 40 more new officers added to the force in the Spring.
Although last year APD hired 117 sworn police, including laterals, not all of those officers are patrolling the streets with upwards of 60 sworn police assigned to the compliance bureau of APD for the Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement Agreement CASA) Order Consent decree.
Midway through 2015, APD response time to “Priority 1” calls, which included shootings, robberies, finding dead bodies and car wrecks with injuries, was 11 minutes and 12 seconds. In fiscal year 2016, APD actual response time to “Priority 1” calls was 11 minutes and 35 seconds. In fiscal year 2017, APD actual response time to “Priority 1” calls was 12 minutes and 16 seconds. In 2019, that time period spiked to 48 minutes as the average response time.
APD ADDS NEW PRIORITY CALL CATEGORIES AS ATTEMPT TO REDUCE RESPONSE TIME
The Albuquerque Emergency Communications Center has been trying to reduce response times for several years. In March, 2019 it was reported that 911 changed what is called the “priority system.”
Before when a call would come in, it was given one of three priorities based on it’s level of importance. With so few priorities, however, calls like someone locking a dog in a car was given the top priority. That was the same importance as if someone with a gun was robbing someone.
On March 6, 2019, APD announced that the way it was dispatching police officers to 911 calls was changed. 911 calls expanded the priority list to include 2 more for a total of five categories a opposed to just 3.
Before, call priorities were generally on a scale of 1 to 3 with 1 being the highest or most important type of call.
The original three priority 911 dispatch system defined the calls as follows:
A PRIORITY 1 call is a felony that is in progress or there is an immediate threat to life or property.
A PRIORITY 2 call is where there is no immediate threat to life of property. Misdemeanor crimes in progress are priority 2 calls.
A PRIORITY 3 call is any call in which a crime has already occurred with no suspects at or near the scene.
Routine events and calls where there are no threat to life or property are priority 3 calls.
In 2018, Albuquerque Police Department (APD) police officers were dispatched to 476,726 calls for service. The 2018-2019 City general fund performance measures contained in the 2018-2019 fund budget, reflects significantly more calls for service with the projected number of calls for service reported as 576,480, and the actual number being 580,238.
Under the new system, a Priority 1 call is “any immediate life-threatening situation with great possibility of death or life-threatening injury or any confrontation between people which could threaten the life or safety of any person where weapons are involved.” A major goal of the new system is to determine what calls do and do not require a police officer.
A Priority 5 call is a where a crime has already occurred and there “is no suspect at or near the scene and no threat of personal injury, loss of life or property.”
In announcing the change in policy, APD Public Information Officer Gilbert Gallegos had this to say:
“What we want to do is get officers to the scene of a call as quickly as possible for the most urgent calls, and by that I mean calls where there is a life-threatening situation. … Basically we’re adapting to the situation where we’re trying to make the system much more efficient and much more effective “.
APD administration stresses every call is different and depending on the circumstances of that call the level of priority can always change. The single most compelling reason for the change is that it was taking way too long to dispatch police officers after a call is received. Police were being dispatched to calls where an officer was not always needed.
Under the new 5 call policy, police officers only run code lights and sirens to life-threatening situations like a shooting, stabbing, armed robbery, or a crime where a weapon is involved. Under the new system, the public are asked to go to the telephone reporting unit to make a report and APD will not dispatch officers unless it meets some other criteria elevating the call. For the lower priority calls where an officer isn’t needed, callers have three ways to file a report: online, over the phone, or at any police substation.
Midway through 2015, APD response time to “Priority 1” calls, which included shootings, robberies, finding dead bodies and car wrecks with injuries, was 11 minutes and 12 seconds. In fiscal year 2016, APD actual response time to “Priority 1” calls was 11 minutes and 35 seconds. In fiscal year 2017, APD actual response time to “Priority 1” calls was 12 minutes and 16 seconds. In 2019, that time period spiked to 48 minutes as the average response time.
APD PERFORMANCE MEASURES REPORTED IN 2019-2020 GENERAL FUND BUDGET
Whenever response time for 911 of calls is discussed, it must be viewed in the context of how those calls are broken down with respect to types of crime, arrests, number of police officers. The City budget is a “performance based” budget where yearly, the various departments must submit statistics reflecting job performance to justify the individual department budgets.
According to the 2019-2020 approved budget, in the last fiscal year APD responded to the following:
Number of calls for service: 580,238
Average response time for Priority 1 calls (immediate threat to life or great bodily harm): 12:26 minutes, (NOTE: The National standard 9 minutes.)
Number of felony arrests: 9,592
Number of misdemeanor arrests: 18,442
Number of DWI arrests: 1,403
Number of domestic violence arrests: 2,356
You can review the performance measures of APD on page 211 of the budget here:
REAL NUMBERS OF SWORN OFFICERS RESPONDING TO CALLS
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. The links to city hall budgets are here:
http://documents.cabq.gov/budget/fy-19-approved-budget.pdf (Page 209)
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD ) has five major bureaus:
1. The Field Services Bureau
2. Investigative Bureau
3. The Compliance Bureau
4. The Administrative support Bureau
5. The Support Services Bureau
Each bureau has a Deputy Chief appointed by the APD Chief of Police.
APD divides the city into six geographical areas called “area commands.” Each area command is managed by an APD Commander (formerly called Captains) and staffed with between 82 and 119 officers, depending on size of the area command and level of calls for service. All officers are dispatched through the police communications operators by calling (505) 242-cops for non-emergency calls or 911 in an emergency.
APD also has 3 divisions that are separate from the other divisions and they are:
1. The Bike Patrol
2. Operations Review
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 has and where they have been assigned. According to the report, APD as of August 1, 2019 had a total of 972 sworn officers with 600 officers in the field patrolling 6 area commands and neighborhoods. The snapshot does not account for time delays from Human Resources and Payroll that have effective dates and retirements.
It is the field services bureau that forms the front line of sworn officers that repond to emergency calls for service. Following is the breakdown of sworn police assignments.:
FIELD SERVICES BUREAU — TOTAL STAFFING: 600 (Out of 970)
The field service bureau’s primary function is to provide uniformed police officers throughout the city and at the six police substations and area commands. Officers assigned to field services handle calls for service and patrol the area commands in 3 separate shifts. These are the sworn police in uniform that are on the front line of law enforcement dealing with hundreds of thousands of calls for service a year. This is where the “rubber hits the road” when it comes to keeping neighborhoods safe and community-based policing.
The number of sworn officers assigned to each area command is somewhat fluid and based on the number of calls for service in the area command. Area commands with higher crime rates have always had far more officers assigned than those that have lower crime rates.
One Deputy Police Chief is appointed to oversee and manage the Field Services Bureau.
A major topic of discussion at neighborhood Associations and the Community Policing Councils is always how many police officers are patrolling the area commands. Following is a breakdown of sworn police assigned to each one of the area commands:
SOUTHWEST AREA COMMAND
The Southwest Area Command is bordered by Interstate 40 the north, the Rio Grande to the east, the South Valley to the south, and Albuquerque city limits to the west. Following is the staffing reported:
58 Patrol Officers, 1 Commander, 3 Lieutenants, 7 Sergeants
VALLEY AREA COMMAND
The Valley Area Command is bordered by the Albuquerque city limits to the north and south, Interstate 25 to the east, and the Rio Grande, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, and the North Valley to the west. This Area Command has an extensive history of having the second highest crime rates in the City. Following is the staffing reported:
67 Patrol Officers , 1 Commander, 3 Lieutenants, 6 Sergeants, 2 School Resource Officers.
SOUTHEAST AREA COMMAND
The Southeast Area Command is bordered by Interstate 40 to the north, Eubank Boulevard to the east, Kirtland Air Force Base and Albuquerque city limits to the south, and Interstate 25 to the west. This Area Command has an extensive history of having the highest crime rates in the city. Following is the staffing reported:
89 Patrol Officers, 4 Lieutenants, 9 Sergeants, 2 School Resource Officers
NORTHEAST AREA COMMAND
The Northeast Area Command is bordered by Albuquerque city limits to the north, Eubank Boulevard to the east, Interstate 40 to the south, and Interstate 25 to the west. This Area Command has a more recent history of increasing crime rates in the city, especially residential break-ins and robberies. Following is the staffing reported:
78 Patrol Officers, 1 Commander, 3 Lieutenants, 8 Sergeants, 2 School Resource Officers
FOOTHILLS AREA COMMAND
The Foothills Area Command is bordered by San Antonio NE to the north, the Sandia Foothills to the east, Kirtland Air Force Base to the south, and Eubank Boulevard to the west. This Command Area has some of the lowest crime rates in the City. Following is the staffing reported:
57 Patrol Officers, 1 Commander, 2 Lieutenants, 8 Sergeants, 3 School Resource Officers
Northwest Area Command
The Northwest Area Command is bordered by Albuquerque city limits to the west and north, the west bank of the Rio Grande to the east, and Interstate 40 to the south. This Command Area has some of the lowest crime rates in the City. Following is the staffing reported:
59 Patrol Officers, 1 Commander, 3 Lieutenants, 7 Sergeants, 1 School Resource Officers
OTHER BUREAUS WITHIN APD
Policing and law enforcement is not just how many sworn police are patrolling the streets and making misdemeanor arrests and responding to 911 calls. Law enforcement includes staffing to acceptable levels those bureaus that do all the difficult or complicated investigations, such as homicides and rapes, as well as staffing for compliance with the Department of Justice mandated reforms. Following is a breakdown of the staffing levels according to the August 1, 2019, APD “Staffing Snapshot”:
INVESTIGATIVE BUREAU – TOTAL STAFFING: 173
The Investigative Bureau consists of Criminal Investigations Division, the Special Investigations Division, Scientific Evidence Division and the Real Time Crime Center. This bureau deals primarily with the completion of felony investigations and prepares the cases, including evidence gathering and processing scientific evidence such as DNA, blood and fingerprints, for submission to prosecuting agencies, primarily the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office. Units in the bureau include homicide and auto theft. Following is the staffing reported:
142 Detectives, 1 Deputy Chief, 3 Commanders, 6 Lieutenants, 10 Sergeants
COMPLIANCE BUREAU – TOTAL STAFFING: 61
The 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.
Following is the staffing reported:
40 Detectives, 1 Deputy Chief, 3 Commanders, 1 Deputy Commander, 6 Lieutenants, 10 Sergeants
SUPPORT SERVICES BUREAU – TOTAL STAFFING: 116
The Support Services Bureau is comprised by the Homeland Security and Special Events Division, the Metro Traffic Division, the Records Division, the APD Police Academy, and the Public Safety Districts such as the Downtown Public Safety Division. Following is the staffing reported:
68 Officers, 1 Deputy Chief, 2 Commanders, 8 Lieutenants, 20 Sergeants, 6 Cadets/Pre-hires
ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT BUREAU – TOTAL STAFFING: 43
This bureau provides clerical, secretarial, administrative, budgetary preparation and grant application support to the entire APD Department. Following is the staffing reported:
34 Officers, 1 Deputy Chief, 1 Commander, 2 Lieutenants, 4 Sergeants
SPECIAL OPERATIONS AND TACTICAL UNIT – TOTAL STAFFING: 30
This unit consists of the Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (SWAT). SWAT is trained to deal with situations of unusual danger, especially when requiring aggressive tactics or enhanced firepower, as in rescuing hostages, thwarting terrorist attacks or assassinations, and subduing heavily armed suspects. Following is the staffing reported:
24 Officers, 1 Commander, 2 Lieutenants, 3 Sergeants
BIKE PATROL– TOTAL STAFFING: 16
The bike patrol is what the name implies: Uniformed police ride on bikes an patrol the areas assigned to show a police presence such as in the Downtown Central Area, the City Plaza and Nob Hill. A total of 16 officers are assigned to the Bike Patrol.
Police operations is generally defined as standard operating procedures, review of job duties, responsibilities, and activities that law enforcement agents complete in the field. 7 Officers, 4 Lieutenants and 5 Sergeants are reported as staffing Operations Review.
OTHER SWORN POLICE: TOTAL STAFFING 51
There are 41 APD recruits, laterals and sergeants assigned to on-the-job training.
10 sworn APD are assigned to Metro Court to provide security to the Metropolitan Court and the Mayor’s security detail that provides protection to the Mayor, his family when needed and security to the Mayor’s Office.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The homicide clearance rate is an embarrassment and blaming lack of resources is not acceptable. The response times to 911 calls is equally embarrassing. It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel or resources, but of a failed personnel resource management issue by Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier and the APD Deputy Chiefs.
INCREASE HOMICIDE UNIT
With a 52.4% clearance rate and a backlog of cases, the Keller Administration needs to increase the Homicide Unit significantly more, 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, the backlog of cases 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. 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 Homicide Unit 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.
RESPONSE TIME AT DANGEROUS LEVELS IMPACTING PUBLIC SAFETY
It’s no wonder that with only 600 out of 980 sworn police in field services handling call for service that response times are dangerously high. The high response times by APD to Priority 1 calls for service are unacceptable on so many levels and pose a clear threat to the city’s public safety. Every year from January 8, 2010 to mid-2015, response times for Priority 1 by APD have risen.
There is no doubt rising response times over the years by APD was a side effect of the dwindling police force that went from 1,100 police officers in 2010 to 853 sworn police in 2017, the lowest number of sworn police officers since 2001. Aggravating the increase in response time to 911 Priority 1 calls was the increase in the overall number of calls for service. The dramatic increase in the city’s overall crime rates, violent crime rates and the city’s population also increased response times beyond the national average of 10 minutes.
When it comes to violent crimes such as aggravated domestic violence cases, rapes, murders and armed robberies, seconds and minutes can make a difference between life and death of a person. City officials project that by the summer of 2020, APD will employ a total of 980 sworn police. With the establishment of new categories priority call and the addition of more police the APDs response time should have had a dramatic decline, but it has not.
With more police officers and the change in Priority 1 categories, APD should be able to better dispatch and save resources, yet overall response times continue to climb to dangerous levels.
Erika Wilson, the 911 Director had this to say:
“I think APD is doing the best it can with the resources it has.”
The truth is, that is a very weak excuse by any one’s standard as is 48-minute average response time being inexcusable.
Currently, there are 61 sworn police assigned to the compliance bureaus, which includes APD Internal Affairs. There are 40 detectives involved with the Department of Justice reform enforcement. Those 40 officers would be better utilized in the field services patrolling the streets and bringing response times down to more respectable levels.
People in Albuquerque will never genuinely feel safe or have confidence in APD as long as they know when they make a 911 call for help, it may take upwards of 48 minutes before you see a uniform, if not longer, or perhaps not at all.
WITHHELD FUNDING OVER SANCTUARY CITY
Deputy Chief Harold Medina was a little over the top when he accused the United States Department of Justice of “politcal extortion” for threatening to withhold the $10 Million in federal grant funding. Albuquerque City Council President Pat Davis once again showed the poor judgment he is known for with his grand standing saying the threat was “just blatantly political bullying.”
Simply put, Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Geier were derelict in not speaking for the department and the City on the importance the city’s “immigrant friendly policy” and their failure to dispute that the city is a “sanctuary city”. It was a failure of leadership of Chief Michael Geier and especially Mayor Tim Keller not taking any public position on the threat when it is they who should have made an effort to seek to work out a compromise.
Like it or not, the APD is still under a federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). Since day one of assuming office on December 1, 2017. Keller pledged to work with the Department of Justice and the city has indeed made significant progress in implementing th reforms. Both May Keller and Chief Geier are still struggling to implement all 270 mandated reforms. Further, the city has filed a Motion to assume self-oversight on a number of the reforms.
Comments such as that made by City Councilor Pat Davis and APD Deputy Chief Medina and a failure of Chief Geier and Mayor Keller send the wrong message of confrontation rather than cooperation and communication with the federal government. One thing is for sure, the city council needs to revisit the original “immigrant friendly” resolution and determine if it really has accomplished anything other than jeopardizing funding with the Department of Justice for law enforcement. The City Council needs to determine if there is an actual need to declare Albuquerque a “sanctuary city”.
Candidate Tim Keller campaigned to be elected mayor on the platform of implementing the U.S. Department of Justice-mandated reforms, increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department, returning to community-based policing and promising to bring down skyrocketing crime rates.
The Keller administration is spending $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers in order to return to community-based policing. According to recent pay stubs, APD has 950 sworn police or 250 short of what was promised. The Keller Admiration also negotiated with the police union significant APD pay raises and bonuses and an aggressive hiring and recruitment program offering incentives to join or return to APD.
What is very troubling is that all the increases in APD budget, personnel and new programs 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 or resources, but of a failed personnel resource management issue. It is also obvious that the APD command staff Keller handpicked are not getting the job done.
A major reorganization of APD is in order, including personnel changes and asking for more than a few resignations and starting with the APD command staff Keller picked. The reorganization would include increasing the number of officers sworn to patrol the streets and increasing the various units, such as the homicide and investigations units.
Currently, there are 61 sworn police assigned to the compliance bureaus, which includes APD Internal Affairs. There are 40 detectives involved with the Department of Justice reform enforcement. Those 40 officers would be better utilized in the field services patrolling the streets.
Sooner rather than later, citizens demand and want results. No amount of feel good public relations or nuance programs Keller is known for are going to satisfy those demands or make people feel safe. Mayor Tim Keller is also known for his eternal optimism that things will get better with APD, that more time is needed to turn the department around and that APD is doing the best it can with what it has.
Voters want a strong executive to run APD and the job is not getting done. Candidate Keller made a lot of promises when it comes to APD to get elected with very few results and he is now running out of time to “do good” as he runs for a second term in 2021.
On Sunday, March 1, the Albuquerque Journal editorialized on the homicide clearance rate. Following is the editorial in full with the link to the editorial:
EDITORIAL TITLE: Getting away with murder
BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
Sunday, March 1st, 2020 at 12:02am
“It’s all about priorities.
Or, in this case, perhaps misplaced ones.
As the number of homicides in Albuquerque has soared, with a record 82 in 2019, the percentage of those solved by arrest has plunged. According to city budget documents, APD’s homicide clearance rate as reported in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report hovered around 80% from fiscal 2009 to 2016. But in each of the last two calendar years, the percentage of solved homicides dropped to about 50%.
And while APD maintains a website of “Active Homicide Investigations,” it lists just 25 cases – all of which occurred in 2018 between January and August. No more recent cases are posted. Why? In fact, APD says it does not even have “collective data” to show how many murders over the years have gone unsolved.
There is not enough space to list all of the many unsolved cases here. And there is no way to adequately address the open wounds of families and loved ones left behind, or the scars left on the community.
But among the most alarming are:
⋄ Jacqueline Vigil, 55, who was shot and killed in her driveway in an upscale neighborhood on Albuquerque’s West Side last November as she was leaving home before dawn to go to her gym. “Jacque” was the mother of two State Police officers and worked in a child day care center. She was the kind of person who sent Bible verses to friends and loved ones twice a day.
• Roy Caton Jr., a beloved, retired University of New Mexico professor and Korea veteran who was found brutally murdered in his university-area home in August, a block from the place where he taught for much of his life. He taught chemistry to many students who went on to become doctors, dentists and nurses. In the words of a former colleague, “he really impacted the community.”
• Victoria Martens, the 10-year-old girl brutally murdered, dismembered and set on fire in 2016. It was one of the most shocking killings in the city’s history, and like the deaths of Vigil and Caton is in the unsolved category. Because of the botched homicide investigation, chances are no one will ever face murder charges for her death. (Three people have been arrested in the case, and two convicted of lesser charges. The police investigation into a fourth suspect stalled in 2018.
Given the rising death toll and shocking circumstances of some of the cases, it’s fair to ask whether Albuquerque is dedicating enough resources to solving these crimes – and hopefully deterring others in the process.
APD says it now has 11 homicide detectives – up from five in 2017. Compare that to the 53 sworn officers and 31 civilians in the new APD Accountability and Oversight Division organized under Mayor Tim Keller’s administration in response to the court-approved monitoring of city police.
Internal Affairs is one component of that division and includes one commander, three lieutenants, five sergeants, 18 detectives and eight civilians. There are four openings for additional detectives. So at full force, APD’s unit that investigates cops would have twice the number – that’s 100% more – of detectives the department now has investigating homicides.
This isn’t to say compliance with the reform agreement and internal investigations isn’t important. It is. But as the city has ramped up hiring in APD, partly by upping salaries and through intense recruiting, it’s time the City Council asked Police Chief Michael Geier to show up at a public meeting, address the homicide clearance issue and answer questions. Allocation of resources is an important part of the oversight job we elected councilors to do, and it’s time for them to do it in a way the community can share in the information.
Because there are real consequences to the lack of resources investigating homicides.
A 2018 Washington Post analysis of 8,000 homicides found that for cases that aren’t solved within one year, only 5% ultimately lead to an arrest. As for caseloads, APD says some of its veteran homicide detectives have more than 20 open cases. The federal Bureau of Justice Assistance guide on best practices says a homicide unit is optimally staffed when each detective is lead investigator on an average of three to four new homicide cases per year.
“It’s nearly impossible to improve clearance rates when you’re dealing with large caseloads, as you are forced to just triage and you can’t dig into the investigation,” says Lt. Detective Darrin Greeley of the Boston Police Department in the 2018 federal report.
But this is about more than statistics. And Jacque Vigil’s husband Sam makes the case for more resources.
“I’m very frustrated, not with the actual detectives working on the case, because I think their plates are so full that it’s ridiculous,” he says.
“They are doing as much as they possibly can with very little resources … There are other victims. It’s not just Jacque.”
The friends and loved ones of Jacque Vigil, Roy Caton, Victoria Martens and all the other homicide victims in Albuquerque deserve some answers. Along with all the other residents of a city battered by violent crime.”