On Friday, May 28, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Harold Medina held a press conference along with others to give an update on the Violence Intervention Program (VIP). The VIP program is an initiative with the goal of reducing violent crime as the city is deals with a record number of homicides for the third year in a row.
The May 28 press conference occurred on the same day the city suffered its 49th homicide of the year, 24 more homicides than by the same time last year. In 2019, there were 29 homicides by the end of May.
On Saturday, May 29 it was reported that the city suffered a second homicide in less than 12 hours and the 50th in the city this year. There were 25 killings by the same time last year.
THE VIP PROGRAM UPDATE
According to APD, the Violence Intervention Program is designed to “interrupt the process” where victims of other violent crimes become involved in perpetuating the violence that happened to them. In its first year of existence, the city has staffed VIP with a police commander, a program manager, a social services coordinator, and special projects manager.
The VIP program was announced by Keller on November 22, 2019 and then launched operational in April, 2020. The VIP program is based om “Operation Ceasefire” in Oakland, California, and offers resources, in lieu of punishment, to those identified as drivers of violent crime. According to the city’s VIP Manager Gerri Bachicha, less than 0.1% of the city’s population, 600 to 700 people, drive the majority of violent crime, including homicides and aggravated assaults with deadly weapons.
VIP case managers hold weekly shooting reviews with multiple agencies to review shooting incidents. The group meetings identify those involved with violent crimes as well as those at risk of becoming the next victim or suspect. Assigned VIP meet with people at their homes to offer resources. The resources offered include shelter services, rental assistance, job training and counseling. VIP personnel tell the individuals they are trying to assist that APD is watching them and if they continue any kind of violence, there will be consequences and they will be arrested and prosecuted.
According to one news source, since April 2020, the Violence Intervention Program made 133 in-person meetings, or what they call custom notifications. They people they make contact with need various resources, including housing support, job support or therapy. City officials report that 97% of the people who have received help have not been arrested. The other 3% were “predominately arrested for drug-related offenses.”
During the press conference, it was reported that thus far VIP personnel case managers have met with 149 people. The ages of those met with range from teenagers to those in their 30s. According to Chief Medina, the number of interventions has more than doubled since December, 2020 when it was 74, and the program has increased the number of interventions by more than 10% since last year. Medina also reported only 3% of the 149 people have gotten in trouble since those “custom notifications.” VIP Manager Bachicha said 3 people have been arrested, mostly for drug-related offenses, and 1 person was shot and injured in a domestic violence incident.
Angel Garcia, a social service coordinator with the program had this to say:
“I’m talking to people who are literally in shoes that I have walked through before. I’ve experience gun violence. I’ve been a victim of gun violence. In my younger years, I’ve perpetrated violence, so I could understand where the people in our community are coming from, and I’ve felt the pain,“
Links to quoted news source material are here:
VIP PROGRAM EXPLAINED
On Tuesday, August 18, 2020 Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference that discussed a wide range of topics related to crime in Albuquerque. Mayor Keller insisted that his administration was “chipping away” at Albuquerque’s high crime rates and he discussed the VIP program . According to Mayor Keller:
“This isn’t about Power Point slides or interesting analysis. … 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. This is not just running reports and I think that’s a marked difference with what the city has done in the past.”
Keller said other cities with the same initiative have seen violent crime reduce by 10%-30%. Keller said he expects to see results in 9-18 months.
It was 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 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.
During the November 22 press conference, Keller outlined 4 major components of the VIP program:
1. LAW ENFORCEMENT
APD “restructured” to create a “Violence Intervention Division” with its own Commander. The division is designed to make cross-functional partnership as productive as possible. The goal is to remove the barriers between investigative units, increase coordination among field officers, violent crime, undercover detectives, the intelligence unit, forensic techs, crime analysts and victim advocates to fight violent crime. Law enforcement partners on the program include the State Police, Probation and Parole, ATF, DEA, FBI, US Marshal and Homeland Security.
2. PROSECUTION PARTNERS
Prosecutors from all systems including the Attorney General, District Attorney, US Attorney and Office of Superintendent of Insurance will collaborate to share information and make sure cases are going to the appropriate teams and courts.
3. SOCIAL SERVICES
The City has always funded social services aimed at violence reduction. The Family and Community Services is working with the community to identify the most effective evidence-based violence reduction strategies, and requiring providers to work together in the Violence Intervention Program. The administration created a Deputy Director of Health position held by a clinical social worker.
4. COMMUNITY PARTNERS
The City reaches out to community partners, including the Bernalillo County Community Health Council, that are dealing with the causes and effects of violent crime to work together on this program. A technical advisor leads partnership-based violence reduction efforts to improve police-community trust and sustain the strategy over time.”
MEDINA’S PITTY ME LETTER TO THE ABQ JOURNAL
On June 2, the Albuquerque Journal published a guest column written by APD Chief Harold Medina entitled “APD Fighting Causes Of Violent Crime.” In the guest column, Medina boldly proclaims:
“Cities are battling a surge in violent crime that stems from illegal drugs, domestic violence and guns – trends we are seeing in Albuquerque, as well. Despite the challenges during the past year, our police agencies have to be resilient and do all that we can to keep our communities safe.”
Medina goes on to say:
“The increase in homicides coincides with the onset of the pandemic. We didn’t see the same increase in homicides in Albuquerque in 2020, but that changed in 2021, producing more homicides during the first three months.”
Medina describes all that he and APD have done in the last year to reduce crime and says:
‘We tripled the size of our homicide unit, and we are starting the first-ever detective academy next month to ensure more effective investigations. We hired hundreds of new officers, which allowed us to create Proactive Response Teams and a Gun Violence Reduction Unit. We also created the Metro 15 focusing on individuals who are drivers of crime and a Violence Intervention Program to help young people avoid being offenders and victims of violent crime. … I shifted the focus of the department to ensure we always have proactive operations being planned and executed. We have completed 36 weekly operations resulting in more than 1,700 arrests.”
The link to the entire Medina ABQ Journal guest is here:
DEVIL IN THE STATISTICS
With respect Albuquerque’s homicide rates, spikes in violent crime and property crime were occurring the 3 years before the pandemic, yet Medina falsely proclaims:
“The increase in homicides coincides with the onset of the pandemic.”
That is simply false. Violent crime spiked the 3 years before the pandemic.
Albuquerque’s record-breaking number of murders has been going on for the last 3 years and now continuing in 2021 with 50 homicides as of May 29. The body count is only a small part of the city’s overall violent crime problem. The crime statistics that gage the success or failure of the city’s programs must include not just actual murders but the arrest rates and high violent crime rates. For that reason, those statistics merit review.
HOMICIDE SPIKE DURING THE LAST 3 YEARS AND STILL SPIKING
In 2018, during Mayor Tim 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. Albuquerque had more homicides in 2019 than in any other year in the city’s history. The previous high was in 2017 when 72 homicides were reported in Mayor Berry’s last year in office. The previous high mark was in 1996, when the city had 70 homicides. The year 2020 ended with 76 homicides, the second-highest count since 1996. The decline dropped the homicide rate from 14.64 per 100,000 people in 2019 to about 13.5 in 2020.
USE OF FORCE REPORT
On Friday October 23, 2020 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released its “Use of Force” report covering a four-year time period from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2019. The link to the entire use of force report is here:
The Use of Force report has upwards of 56 bar graphs and charts and 8 maps in the 73-page report. Below are the combined totals in the top 8 “consolidated” categories for the years 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. The calculations for the 8 categories are based on the raw numbers gleaned from the various bar graphs in the report.
Number APD arrests: 58,251
APD “use of force” incidents (Empty hand, TAZER, gun discharge): 2,395
APD “show of force” incidents (Handgun, rifle, TAZER): 1,087
APD firearm discharges: 65
Number of times APD officers displayed a hand gun: 524
Number of times APD officers displayed a rifle: 212
Times APD used “electronic control weapon” (TAZER): 365
Estimated total “calls for service” generating “case numbers” 312,000 to 375,000
(Combined number of cases generated by all 6 area commands)
FOUR YEAR TOTAL OF ARREST MADE BY APD REPORTED IN USE OF FORCE REPORT: 58,226.
2022 ADOPTED APD BUDGET CONTAINS TOTAL ARRESTS FOR 2019 AND 2020
The City’s 2022 adopted budget for APD on page 151 contains APD’s arrests statistics for 2019 and 2020. APD’s budget is a peformance based budget and the department is required to submit a number of statistics to justify its budget. Arrest numbers for felonies, misdemeanors as well as DWI are revealed in the budget. APD’s budget also outlines full time personnel and breaks it down between sworn and civilian employees.
The link to the budget is here:
Following is the breakdown of arrest for the years 2019 and 2020:
NUMBER OF FELONY ARRESTS:
NUMBER OF MISDEMEANOR ARRESTS
NUMBER OF DWI ARRESTS
(2022 APD Budget, page 151)
TOTAL NUMBER OF ARRESTS FOR 2019: 32,173
TOTAL NUMBER OF ARREST FOR 2020: 24,371
APD SWORN PERSONNEL FOR 2019 AND 2020
According to APD’s approved 2021-2022 budget, in 2019 APD had 924 full time police. In 2020 APD had 1,004 sworn police or 80 more sworn in 2020 than in 2019, yet arrests went down during the first year of the pandemic.
In 2018 during Mayor Keller’ first full year in office, there were 6,789 violent crimes, 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.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Chief Medina’s statements “The increase in homicides coincides with the onset of the pandemic. We didn’t see the same increase in homicides in Albuquerque in 2020, but that changed in 2021 … “ are simply false. Medina’s June 2 letter to the Albuquerque Journal was nothing more than a pathetic attempt to embellish his and APD’s very poor work performance over the last 4 years, especially in 2020 the first year of the pandemic.
Medina has been part of APD’s upper command staff, including being the Deputy Chief of Field Service dealing with personnel assigned to the field since the day Keller was sworn in as Mayor on December 1, 2017.
In 2020, in the first full year of the pandemic, APD’s felony arrest numbers dropped by 4,324 and APD’s misdemeanor arrest dopped by 2,920 and DWI Arrests dropped by 558 from 2019 for a combined total of 7,802 arrests.
According to APD’s approved 2021-2022 budget, in 2019 APD had 924 full time police and in 2020 APD had 1,004 sworn police or 80 more sworn in 2020 than in 2019. In 2020 there were fewer arrest made by more police.
Page 149 of APD approved budget: https://documents.cabq.gov/budget/fy-22-proposed-budget.pdf
APD Chief Medina seems to forget or does not want the public to know that it is well known that there is a correlation between the number of police, arrests and crime rates.
According to a 2018 study entitled “More COPS, Less Crime” by Steven Mello with Princeton University there is a causal effect in police numbers and the reduction on crime rates. The study dealt with the federal grant programs known as COPs for police to finance police officers for communities. The study found that there is a direct correlation between an increase in the number of police and the decline in victimization.
According to the study, large and statistically significant effects of police numbers occur on robbery, larceny, and auto theft, with suggestive evidence that police reduce murders as well. Crime reductions associated with additional police were more pronounced in areas most affected by the Great Recession. The results highlight that fiscal support to local governments for crime prevention may offer large returns, especially during bad macroeconomic times.
The link to the entire study is here:
PROMISES MADE, PROMISES BROKEN
In 2017, Candidate Tim Keller campaigned to get elected Mayor on the platform of implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms, increasing the size of APD, returning to community-based policing and promising to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. Mayor Tim Keller has tried repeatedly to take credit for crime rates being on the decline in all categories other than violent crime offenses.
It was ironic that the May 28 press conference occurred on the same day that the city suffered its 49th homicide of the year, 24 more homicides than by the same time last year. The day after the press conference, the city had its 50th homicide. In 2019, there were 29 homicides by the end of May, and in 2021 the city had 50 by the end of May.
Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Harold Medina touting the success of the VIP program is totally understandable and it’s easily explained. Mayor Tim Keller is seeking a second 4-year term and the election is 5 months away. Both Keller and Medina have little to show for as to reducing violent crime, hence the May 28 press conference to embellish the limited success of the VIP program.
Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Harold Medina are pushing the “peddle to the metal” and are going full throttle with their public relations campaign to convince the general public and the media that what they have done is having a major effect on reducing crime. Keller ostensibly felt that it was so important that he even found a razor to look clean shaven and put on a tie for the cameras as he talked with a smile on his face and a grin in his voice.
Mayor Tim Keller and his appointed APD Chief Harold Medina are speaking way too soon on the success of the VIP program to reduce violent crime. Keep in mind that Keller said when the VIP program was announced 2 years ago that other cities with the same initiative had seen violent crime reduce by 10%-30%. Keller said he expected to see results in 9-18 months. Based on the 50 homicides thus far, that simply has not happened,
The blunt truth is that the VIP personnel case managers meeting with 149 people since inception of the program, though commendable and idealistic, are nothing more than a drop in the city’s blood-filled crime bucket, especially in view of the fact that the city is once again experiencing another spike in homicides.
FOUR OTHER PROGRAMS
In 2019, in response to the continuing increase in violent crime rates, Mayor Keller , in addition to the VIP program, scrambled to implement 3 major crime fighting program to reduce violent crime. On May 5, 2021, APD announced its Ambassador Program to improve relations with the community. The 4 programs are as follows:
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 Metro 15 Operation program.
On Tuesday, November 26, 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:
4. AMBASSADOR PROGRAM
On May 5, 2021 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced the creation of an new “Ambassador Program”. The Ambassador Program has assigned to it upwards of 18 police officers and city employs. The goal of the Ambassador Program is to bridge the gap between police and communities that may not completely trust officers.
APD spokeswoman Rebecca Atkins said the APD officers assigned to the Ambassador Program will receive advanced training in community relations and will take concerns to APD Police Chief Harold Medina once a month. According to Atkins, the Ambassador Program will start with five groups: the Asian, Hispanic, Black and Native American communities, and the LGBTQ community.
She said the initiative is aimed at establishing <em>“clear, consistent lines of communication” with those that have not had formal relationships with law enforcement in the past. Officers will also work on recruiting to diversify the department.