Over 3 years ago, in August, 2017, then New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller, candidate for Albuquerque Mayor, had this to say about the city’s high crime rates:
“It’s unfortunate, but crime is absolutely out of control. It’s the mayor’s job to actually address crime in Albuquerque, and that’s what I want to do as the next mayor.”
During his full 3 years in office, Mayor Keller has initiated numerous crime-fighting initiatives. All were initiated before the pandemic hit the city hard in February of last year. March 11, 2020 is when the Corona Virus was declared a world wide pandemic and the country began to shut down and people began to quarantine and businesses began to close.
The 4 crime fighting initiatives Mayor Keller implemented during his first 2 years in office were:
KELLER’S FAILED VIOLENT CRIME REDUCTION PROGRAMS
It was in 2018 to 2019, during a 9 month period, in response to the continuing increase in violent crime rates, Mayor Keller scrambled to implement 4 major crime fighting programs to reduce violent crime. Those programs are:
1. 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 para legals. It was announced that it is was expanded to 12 under the 2019-2020 city budget that took effect July 1, 2019.
2. Declaring Violent Crime “Public Health” issue
On April 8, 2019, Mayor Keller and APD announced efforts that will deal with “violent crime” in the context of it being a “public health issue” and dealing with crimes involving guns in an effort to bring down violent crime in Albuquerque. Mayor Keller and APD argue that gun violence is a “public health issue” because gun violence incidents have lasting adverse effects on children and others in the community that leads to further problems.
3. The “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP program)
On November 22, 2019 Mayor Tim Keller announced what he called a “new initiative” to target violent offenders called “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP). The VIP initiative was in response to the city’s recent murders resulting in the city tying the all-time record of homicides at 72 in one year. Mayor Keller proclaimed the VIP is a “partnership system” that includes law enforcement, prosecutors and social service and community provides to reduce violent crime. According to Keller vulnerable communities and law enforcement will be working together and building trust has proven results for public safety. Mayor Keller stated:
“… This is about trying to get these people not to shoot each other. …This is about understanding who they are and why they are engaged in violent crime. … And so, this actually in some ways, in that respect, this is the opposite of data. This is action. This is actually doing something with people. …”
4. The Metro 15 Operation program.
On Tuesday, November 26, 2019 Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference to announce a 4th program within 9 months to deal with the city’s violent crime and murder rates. At the time of the press conference, the city’s homicide count was at 72, matching the city’s record in 2017.
Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year. Keller dubbed the new program “Metro 15 Operation” and is part of the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) program. According to Keller and then APD Chief Michael Geier the new program would target the top 15 most violent offenders in Albuquerque. It’s the city’s version of the FBI’s 10 most wanted list.
Links to news coverage are here:
Fast forward to Thursday February 18, 2021. Channel 4 during its 6:00 PM news cast reported the following story:
STORY LINE: “Keller details proactive strategies to tackle crime in Albuquerque”
Keller was asked by KOB Channel 4 when the results those initiatives would be noticed. His response was to blame the Covid Pandemic when he said:
“I think it’s a challenging question because of COVID and what we’re seeing around the country. And actually we are concerned and worried about the reverse. … Violent crime is skyrocketing everywhere in the country. That is what we are trying to plan for, brace for and deal with. So until we have all the other associated aspects with COVID and violent crime and drug use show some kind of clear direction. Then we can give you an accurate forecast.”
On Friday, February 12, KOB Channel 4 did another report interviewing APD Chief Harold Medina on the city’s crime rates.
Following are the relevant portions of the Channel 4 report:
STORY LINE: “Interim APD chief says pandemic, drugs contributing to crime in Albuquerque.”
The Albuquerque Police Department has opened up 20 homicide investigations in 2021. Interim APD Chief of Police Harold Medina spoke with KOB 4 about the crime crisis. He didn’t have details about how many of the homicides have been solved. However, he pointed to an arrest from a January homicide. He also said they have leads in half of the homicides committed this week.
Medina added that he believes the pandemic is contributing to crime.
“I think this is directly related to the COVID situation that we’re in.” he said.
In addition to the pandemic, Medina said drugs are also fueling crime. Medina said he’s working on new strategies to help combat crime.”
It is laughable that Medina would say the pandemic is contributing to crime seeing that he was hired as Deputy APD Chief when Keller came into office and oversaw the Field Services and he knows damn well that violent crime was soaring long before the pandemic was around.
THREE FULL YEARS OF NIBRS
On Wednesday, February 24, 2021 then Interim Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Median released the city’s 2020 crime statistics as reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It was the third year in a row that the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has compiled crime statistics using the National Incident-Based Reporting System, (NIBRS) as opposed to the Summary Reporting System (SRS) used for decades.
NIBRS provides more comprehensive and detailed information about crimes against person, crimes against property and crimes against society occurring in a law enforcement jurisdiction.
SRS VS. NIBRS
Prior to 2018, APD reported crime statistics to the FBI using the SRS system of Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), which counted only the most serious offense that occurred during an incident. The 8 crime categories were:
1. Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter
2. Forcible Rape
4. Aggravated Assault
7. Motor Vehicle Theft
Starting in 2018, APD began to report crime using NIBRS, which has 3 major reporting broad categories:
Crimes against persons
Crimes against property and
Crimes against society.
The 3 major categories are then broken down into 52 sub-categories. NIBRS counts virtually all crimes committed during an incident and for that reason alone NIMRS is far more sophisticated than the “most serious incident-based” reporting SRS reporting system.
Each offense collected in NIBRS belongs to 1 of 3 categories:
CRIMES AGAINST PERSONS include murder, rape, and assault, and are those in which the victims are always individuals.
CRIMES AGAINST PROPERTY include robbery, bribery, and burglary, or to obtain money, property, or some other benefit.
CRIMES AGAINST SOCIETY include gambling, prostitution, and drug violations, and represent society’s prohibition against engaging in certain types of activity and are typically victimless crimes.
The statistics released on February 24 by APD reveal that during the last 3 years, Crimes Against Property have decreased by a mere 7%, but violent Crimes Against a Person and Crimes Against Society have continued to rise. Following are the raw numbers in each of the 3 categories of Albuquerque’s crime statistics:
CRIMES AGAINST PROPERTY (Includes robbery, bribery, and burglary)
CRIMES AGAINST A PERSON (Include murder, rape, and assault)
CRIMES AGAINST SOCIETY (Include gambling, prostitution, and drug violations)
RAW NUMBERS ANALIZED
CRIMES AGAINST PROPERTY (Includes robbery, bribery, and burglary) declined by a mere 7% from 2018 to 2020.
CRIMES AGAINST A PERSON (Includes murder, rape, and assault) showed that violent crime including aggravated assaults, shootings and stabbings, increased by 4%. The 4% increase was the same as in 2019 with assaults having a 4% rise. In 2019, violent crime increased 1%. This coincides with the city having reach 80 homicides breaking another record. Bernalillo County recorded 241 shootings. With a 2% increase in violent crime, 2020 fell short of the homicide count but had the second-highest number of homicides with 76 and with Bernalillo County reporting 292 shootings. According to the statistics released, the use of firearms as the percentage of homicides committed with a gun jumped from 69% in 2019 to 78% in 2020.
CRIMES AGAINST SOCIETY (gambling, prostitution, drug violations) had 61% increase weapons law violations last year. In 2019, weapons law violations, which include the illegal use, possession and sale of firearms, recorded a 19% increase and an 11% rise in drug offenses.
ABQ’S CRIME STATISTICS IN A NUTSHELL UNDER MAYOR KELLER
In 2020, FBI statistics reveal that Albuquerque has the dubious distinction of having a crime rate about 194% higher than the national average.
A synopsis of the statics during Mayor Tim Keller’s 3 years in office is in order.
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 82 homicides.
In 2020, there were 76 homicides in Albuquerque.
As of March 9, 2021, there have been 27 homicides in the city, another record, with only 4 arrests.
EDITOR’S NOTE: 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.
HOMICIDE CLEARANCE RATES
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. In 2020, the APD homicide clearance rate continued to deteriorate was less than 50%.
In 2017, during Mayor RJ Berry’s last full year in office, there were 7,686 violent crimes. There were 4,213 Aggravated Assaults and 470 Non-Fatal Shootings.
In 2018 during Mayor Keller’ first full year in office, there were 6,789 violent crimes There were 3,885 Aggravated Assaults and 491 Non-Fatal Shootings.
In 2019, the category of “Violent Crimes” was replaced with the category of “Crimes Against Persons” and the category includes homicide, human trafficking, kidnapping and assault. In 2019 during Keller’s second full year in office, Crimes Against Persons increased from 14,845 to 14,971, or a 1% increase. The Crimes Against Person category had the biggest rises in Aggravated Assaults increasing from 5,179 to 5,397.
In 2020 during Keller’s third full year in office, Crimes Against Persons went 2019: 14,971 in 2019 to 15,262 in 2020.
“Crimes Against Society” include drug offenses, prostitution and animal cruelty.
In 2018 During Keller’s first full year in office, total Crimes Against Society were 3,365
In 2019 during Keller’s second full year in office, total Crimes Against Society increased to 3,711 for a total increase of 346 more crimes or a 9% increase.
In 2020 during Keller’s third full year in office Crimes Against Society, had 61% increase weapons law violations last year.
On June 26, 2019 the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released its annual list of cities with the most stolen vehicles reported. Despite a 28% reduction in auto thefts over a two-year period, Albuquerque ranked No. 1 in the nation for vehicle thefts per capita for the third year in a row.
911 EMERGENCY RESPONSE TIMES
In 2009, under Democrat Mayor Martin Chavez, the average 911 emergency response time to calls, whether it was a life or death emergency or a minor traffic crash was 8 minutes 50 seconds.
In 2011, under Republican Mayor RJ Berry the average response times to 911 emergency calls was 25 minutes.
In 2018 and 2019, under Democrat Mayor Tim Keller, the average response times to 911 emergency calls spiked to a full 48 minutes.
APD PERSONNEL LEVELS
During the February 8, 2021, City Council Public Safety Committee, Interim Chief Harold Medina reported that APD has 957 sworn police. Of the 957 sworn police, Medina reported a mere 371 sworn police are in Field Services responding to calls for service or 39% of the entire sworn force. The 371 sworn police taking calls for service are spread out over 3 shifts and 8 area commands to patrol based on crime rates in the areas. Medina also told the committee that Field Services has 6 area commanders, 18 lieutenants, 53 sergeant’s, 21 bicycle officers for a total of 511 officers assigned to field services. The problem is commanders, lieutenants, sergeant’s, and bicycle officers do not patrol the streets and do not take calls for service.
On February 18, then Interim APD Chief Medina was asked the number of narcotics officers the department has right now, compared to past years, Medina said:
“I think it’s right around four right now. That is way less than we had 20 years ago. 20 years ago we had basically three teams of narcotics.”
It was a stunning admission by Medina that APD has only 4 narcotics officers, presumably doing undercover work. FBI statistics over the past 8 years have shown that narcotics trafficking has increased in Albuquerque significantly to the point it is being called and opioid crisis by the United States Attorney.
On February 10, 2021, Medina said half of all the officer-involved shootings last year involved people on meth. In 2016, 17 and 18, it was more than 70%. On February 12, 2021 as a matter of sure coincidence with a day before story that meth usage is connected to police shootings, it was reported that a random traffic stop on the West Side in the early morning of February 11, a BCSO Deputy seized duffel bags stuffed with 160 pounds of methamphetamine.
Links to news coverage are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
In 2017, Candidate Tim Keller campaigned to get elected Mayor on the platform of implementing the Department of Justice 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. On December 1, 2017 Tim Keller was sworn into office.
The crime statistics released for 2018, 2019 and 2020 make it clear that despite all of Mayor Tim Keller’s promises and actions to bring down skyrocketing violent crime, implementation of at least 4 new programs, increasing APD personnel and millions spent, violent crime is still “absolutely out of control”. Regrettably , Mayor Tim Keller has failed to do his “job to actually address crime in Albuquerque.”
Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Harold Medina can take little comfort in Crimes Against Property has fallen a mere 7% given the fact violent crime has increased and so have homicides. In other words, your property may be safe, but you still need to carry a gun to protect yourself.
The 2021 Albuquerque Municipal election for Mayor and City Council Election is Tuesday, November 2, 2021. Mayor Tim Keller has already made it know he is seeking a second 4-year term. When Tim Keller was asked in 2017 why he was running for Mayor he said “I think it would be really neat to be Mayor of my home town and I have done good job at all the jobs I have ever had.” A re election campaign based on “Give me more time and another chance to do good” is not a winning strategy, especially after what Tim Keller promised when he was running the first time and what is still happening with violent crime being “absolutely out of control”.
There is no doubt that the City’s violent and murder rate will be a defining issue, as it should be. But the real issue at this point is does any one really care and has the city accepted that high crime is simply the norm thereby giving Keller a pass?
Links to a related blog articles are is here: