On September 3, it was reported that the city had its 53 homicide this year. The Albuquerque Police Department found a man dead around 2 a.m. Thursday morning near Menaul and Pennsylvania. According to an APD spokesman, officers were dispatched to the 7700 block of Prospect NE in response to a suspicious situation involving a man face down in a front yard. Upon arrival, they determined the man was dead and “appeared to have suffered an unknown type of trauma.” A homicide call-out was initiated. Police said there is no suspect information to release at this time and the victim had not been identified yet.
A NATIONAL TREND
Diane Dimond, age 68, is a national “Crime and Justice Columnist.” Ms. Dimond is an American investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. In a recent column, she reported that the U.S. murder rate had been significantly slowing since the early ’90s but that is no longer the case and she reports:
” … Homicides and gun violence are on the rise. Murders have spiked in 36 of the 50 biggest American cities that were studied during a newly released Wall Street Journal analysis of crime stats. On average, the nation’s homicide rate is up 24% so far this year compared to the same period in 2019. But in certain cities the murder rate is much higher. In Chicago homicides are up 52%. In San Antonio it’s 34%. Phoenix has seen a 32% rise in murders, Philadelphia 31% and Houston 27%. Gang activity is most frequently blamed for the rise as gang members are also feeling the economic pinch of isolation and turf wars have ignited, playing out on near-empty street corners. This year’s recent huge jump in gun sales may have also played a part in the rising inner-city death toll.”…
In yet another column, Dimond reports that FBI statistics reveal that Albuquerque has the dubious distinction of having a crime rate about 194% higher than the national average.
INCREASING HOMICIDE UNIT BY ONE SERGEANT
On September 3, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced it is increasing the Homicide Investigative Unit to keep up with the increasing number of cases. The APD Homicide unit has investigated 53 homicides so far in 2020, which is ahead of the record-breaking pace in 2019, and now has another to investigate. According to APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos, APD will be adding another sergeant to the Homicide Investigative Unit, which will increase the size of the unit to 10 detectives and 2 sergeants. Since taking office on December 1, 2017, Mayor Tim Keller has doubled the size of the unit from 5 detectives to 10 detectives. APD has upwards of 980 sworn officers with 60 more in training at the APD Academy. Growing the ranks of APD is part of the strategy to reduce spiking crime rates.
APD Spokesman Gallegos had this to say about the staff increase of one:
“We’re going to use this extra sergeant to, you know, creatively to really ease the caseload for detectives and kind of make their lives a little easier. … The last thing we want is offenders out there that we are pretty sure are offenders, out there on the streets where they could commit another crime. … For others who are not going to get the message and who are going to keep committing violent crime, we are going to keep arresting them.”
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.
HOMICIDES CONTINUE TO SPIKE UNDER KELLER
The city’s homicide rates have continued to spike during Mayor Tim Keller’s term in office. In 2018, during Mayor Keller’s first full year in office, there were 69 homicides. In 2019, during Mayor Keller’s second full year in office, there were 80 homicides. Albuquerque had more homicides in 2019 than in any other year in the city’s history. The previous high was 72, in 2017 under Mayor RJ Berry. Another high mark was in 1996, when the city had 70 homicides.
The FBI reports that the national homicide clearance rate is 61%. In 2019, APD’s clearance rate was 52.2% when the city reached 80 homicides in one year. In Albuquerque, so far it’s 57% for 2020. It more likely than not the clearance rate will fall even further in 2020 as more murders occur.
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.
For the past two years during Mayor Keller’s tenure, 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, under Mayor Berry the clearance rate was 70%. In 2018, the first year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 56%. In 2019, the second year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 52.5%, the lowest clearance rate in the last decade.
As of September 3, there have been 54 homicides reported in Albuquerque for 2020. With 54 murders thus far for 2020, the city is on track to match or exceed the all-time record of 80 homicides in one year or come very close to it by the end of the year.
LONG STANDING NEED FOR TWO HOMICIDE UNITS, MORE DETECTIVES
During an October, 2019 City Council meeting, APD management said it was 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.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
In 2017, candidate for Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller campaigned to get elected Mayor on the platform of implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms, increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), returning to community-based policing and a promise to bring down skyrocketing crime rates.
Mayor Tim Keller can take very little comfort with the fact that the city’s increase in homicides is part of a national trend. The truth is, Albuquerque has been in the forefront of the trend for the last 5 years and homicides have more than doubled. In 2014, the city had 30 homicides and each year thereafter homicides increased and in 2019 the city had 82 homicides, the most in the city’s history. As of September 4, the city has had 53 homicides. Mayor Keller says violent crime is a top priority of his administration yet he has done nothing to beef up the homicide unit to a level that is needed to deal with the crisis and the unacceptable clearance rates.
In 2019, in response to the continuing increase in violent crime rates, Mayor Keller scrambled to implement 4 major crime fighting programs to reduce violent crime: the Shield Unit, Declaring Violent Crime “Public Health” issue, the “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP program) and the Metro 15 Operation program. Based upon the statistics, the Keller programs have had very little effect on reducing violent crime. Rather than announcing program after program after program to deal with the homicide and violent crime in the city, Mayor Keller would be wise to concentrate on increasing the homicide unit from 10 to 20 detectives.
At this point, 10 detectives and 2 sergeants are not getting the job done and adding just one sergeant is simply not enough. Ten detective need to be assigned to the most current cases over the last two years and 10 assigned to the older cases. People want results and want to feel safe. Victims of family’s of those killed also want justice. Taking years not identifying, arresting and prosecuting those that killed their loved ones only prolongs their mourning and it certainly is not justice.
Mayor Keller patting himself on the back saying that public safety is his number one priority is no longer cutting it.