On Sunday, September 26, the Albuquerque Journal published a guest opinion column by Mayor Tim Keller that gave a summation of the “40 action plans” that were identified by his “Metro Crime Initiative.” The opinion column headline was “Now ABQ has 40 concrete actions to turn tide on crime”. The first paragraph makes a number of claims that reflect an astonishing level of ignorance by an elected official of the criminal justice system and for that reason merits quoting in full:
“Violent crime in the metro area and across America has soared during the pandemic, but in Albuquerque we know it simply cannot be treated as an outlier. Our criminal justice system is broken, and we must reach much further to change the way our region addresses crime. For too long, violence has brought tragedy to the doorstep of families in our community as violent criminals’ cycle in and out of jail. At the same time, the systems that address the most common root causes of crime, like behavioral health, are treated like an afterthought. Today, our criminal justice system does not have the capacity to keep dangerous offenders behind bars or get help to those in need.”
The link to the full guest column is here:
METRO CRIME INITIATIVE
On Thursday, September 23, Mayor Tim Keller and his Administration concluded a series of meetings with law enforcement and community partners to address what all participants called the “broken criminal justice” system. The conference was dubbed the “Metro Crime Initiative.” It concluded with a news conference at the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) Real Time Crime Center to announce the results of the meetings.
A total of 5 meetings were conducted over 2 months. The participants included the Governor office, the Attorney General office, the District Attorney, the Chief Public Defender, Senate and House members, the Mayor, City Council members, Bernalillo County Commissioners, APD, NM State Police, Metro and District Courts and many others. Not at all surprising, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales did not attend. He did not send anyone to represent his office. Gonzales is running for Mayor against Keller and said he didn’t have time between his constitutional duties and campaigning, and he thought it was all just “smoke and mirrors.”
The program consisted of 5 sessions, each lasting upwards of two hours. Panel discussions with law enforcement, court officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and representatives from higher education addressed opportunities for early intervention, detention, diversion and hearings, resources for victims’ advocates and offender reentry, and career pipelines.
ACTION ITEMS ANNOUNCED
The topics of discussion were broken down into 6 major categories. During the September 23 concluding press conference, local leaders admitted they have not been providing enough protection and resources to keep people safe. A list of 40 action items were revealed with the hope that once implemented they will lower Albuquerque’s crime efficiently and quickly. More than 20 departments statewide developed the checklist.
Following are the action items announce in each of the 6 categories:
1. Fully fund public safety agencies
2. Hire more officers
3. Create retention programs for officers
4. Expand crime-fighting technology
5. Crack down on chop shops by enacting a law that makes owning, operating or doing business with a “chop shop” a crime.
6. Extend anti-auto theft & felony warrant partnerships
7. Fund dashboard to track criminal cases
8. Support security infrastructure for businesses
9. Coordinate to identify violent criminals
10. Invest in mobile speed enforcement
REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE
11. Strengthen gun storage laws
12. Detain gun offenders until trial
13. Strengthen gun crime penalties
14. Close loopholes in Red Flag law
15. Urge gun owners to self- record serial numbers
16. Study gun violence as public health issue
CLOSE THE REVOLVING DOOR
17. Fix 24/7 ankle monitoring
18. Increase staffing in courts
19. Use grand juries to protect victims & clear backlogs
20. Limit case management orders to detainees
21. Expand court ordered treatment
22. Increase pre-arrest diversion offers
23. Lower cost barriers to diversion programs
24. Increase number of diversion agreements
25. Increase funding and capacity for specialty courts
REBUILD BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SYSTEM
26. Incentivize new provider services
27. Build peer support programs
28. Create 24/7 sobering center
29. Expand Turquoise Lodge
30. Increase addiction treatment services
31. Develop behavioral health career paths
32. Career training for underserved youth
EXPAND VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PROGRAMS
33. Fund CABQ Violence Intervention Program
34. Expand Violence Intervention Program statewide
35. Bring restorative justice to schools
Identified items added to the to-do list were the following:
36. Bail bond reform with a pre-trial presumption of dangerousness when an offender uses, brandishes, or is in possession of a firearm during a violent, drug or property crime.
37. Invest in “mobile speed enforcement” to free up officers while combating the scourge of dangerous driving”
38. Create a task force to examine officer retention and lateral recruitment programs for all police agencies in New Mexico”
39. Create restorative justice programs in schools”
40. City funding for indigent copays for drug testing for pre-prosecution diversion programs”
One of the major goals of the check list announced is to hold each other accountable. State legislators and city leaders will prepare initiatives, bills and ordinances against each action item on the list and then and only then will the action item get checked off. No set timeline was given complete the items and that is left to each individual agency. The city intends to hold “check-ins” on policy and implementation.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A very detail “check list” pamphlet was produces containing details of each action plan and can be found here:
Links to quoted source material are here:
VIOLENT CRIME TREND IN CITY WAS OCCURING BEFORE COVID
Mayor Keller proclaims in his guest column “Violent crime in the metro area and across America has soared during the pandemic … “ as if the pandemic had anything to do with the city’s violent crime rates. On March 11, 2020, the Corona Virus was declared a worldwide pandemic and the country began to shut down and people began to quarantine and businesses began to close. During his first full 3 years in office, in response to the city’s spiking violent crime rates, Mayor Keller initiated numerous crime-fighting initiatives. All were initiated before the pandemic hit the city hard in February, 2020.
ABQ’S VIOLENT CRIME STATISTICS IN A NUTSHELL UNDER KELLER
In 2020, FBI statistics reveal that Albuquerque has the dubious distinction of having a crime rate about 194% higher than the national average.
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 September 19, 2021 there have been 84 homicides in the city, a new all-time record high.
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 from 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.
KELLER’S FAILED VIOLENT CRIME REDUCTION PROGRAMS
In 2019, Mayor Tim Keller reacting to the spiking violent crime rates, announced 4 programs in 9 months to deal with and bring down the city’s high violent crime rates. The 4 initiatives involve early intervention and partnership with other agencies and 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.
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.
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) . Mayor Keller proclaimed the VIP is a “partnership system” that includes law enforcement, prosecutors and social service and community provides to reduce violent crime. 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.
Simply put, all 4 programs can be described as failures as not having any real statistical impact on reducing crime. The blunt truth is that for a good 3 years before the COVID pandemic hit the city hard in 2020 under Keller’s watch, violent crime rates were spiking, so much so that 4 years ago then candidate for Mayor Tim Keller made reducing the city’s crime rates a cornerstone to his campaign. He proclaimed himself to be uniquely qualified to be Mayor and went so far as to promise that he would hire 300 sworn police officers and grow the department to 1,200 sworn police offices by the end of his first term. Today, the department has 960 sworn police and the police academy cannot keep up with retirements.
REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION OF VIOLENCE TO PREVENT RELEASE
It was in 2016 that New Mexico voters approved a constitutional amendment that largely eliminated the former system of money bail bonds. The change was made to prevent low-level defendants from being kept in jail because they lacked money to post bail. The bond reform also authorizes judges to order defendants held without bail pending trial if prosecutors present evidence at a hearing showing that the charged defendant is an immediate danger to the public and there are no reasonable means to prevent the charged defendant from committing a crime while released pending trial.
In August, District Attorney Raul Torrez, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Medina, severely criticized judges after a homicide suspect escaped from a halfway house by cutting off his ankle bracelet. He was later arrested without incident. All 3 have been joined by the Governor to support a “rebuttable presumption against release” in crimes including first degree and second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and sexual exploitation of children.
Prosecutors and law enforcement officials across the state repeatedly slam judges and the court system for letting out those accused of violent felonies, particularly when they re-offend. They know damn well that judges are bound by the Code of Judicial conduct and no judge can comment and defend themselves on any pending case or even make any kind of an attempt to publicly defend themselves in the court of public opinion.
On September 15, the Administrative Office of the Courts issued the results of a report to take sharp issue with recent proposals to change the bail bond system. The study was conducted by the University of New Mexico (UNM). The report supports the proposition that the existing system does not endanger the public. The UNM study reviewed 10,289 Bernalillo County felony cases from July 2017 to March 2020 in which defendants were released from jail while awaiting trial. The statistical findings were decisive and reported as follows:
Of the cases analyzed, only 13 were arrested for a first-degree felony while on pretrial release, or about 0.1% of the total.
19% of felony defendants released from jail pending trial, 1,951 of 10,289, were arrested for new criminal activity during the pretrial period. Most of those arrests were for fourth-degree felonies and misdemeanors, including property, drug and violent crimes.
Fewer than 5% of defendants, or up to 480, released pretrial were arrested for new violent crimes. Of the cases analyzed, 95.3% were not arrested for violent crimes during the pretrial period.
Artie Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, had this to say about the study:
“The evidence from research clearly shows that the great majority of people released pending trial are not committing new crimes. … Objective research validates the pretrial justice improvements under way in New Mexico. Blaming judges and courts for crimes highlighted in news accounts does nothing to make anyone safer.”
Not at all surprising is that Jennifer Burrill, president-elect of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association had this to say about the “rebuttable presumption against release”:
“That basically means [the Governor, Keller and Torrez] are sacrificing … constitutional rights for their own political career. … We continue to ask the Legislature to make sure whatever decisions are made are based on evidence and not some kind of knee-jerk reaction, because that does not make the problem better. … That’s the same thing that we need to ask of our leaders on this situation.”
The link to quoted source material is here:
EVOLVING IMPROVEMENTS TO BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SERVICES
Studies suggest that nearly 50% of Bernalillo County residents needing mental health or addiction treatment services are not getting the help they need because of gaps in New Mexico’s behavioral health care. It should come as absolutely no surprise that behavioral health services in New Mexico are limited, but is improving significantly. Bernalillo County residents can give a big thanks and shout out to our the former Republican Governor who was in office for a full 8 years and who almost single handedly destroyed New Mexico’s behavioral health care system.
On February 26, 2015, the Bernalillo County Commission approved a 1/8% gross receipts tax increase on a 3-2 vote to fund new behavioral and mental health services to improve access to mental and behavioral health care services in the county. The tax generates approximately $20 million annually. The 1/8th% gross receipts tax was enacted to be used for the purpose of providing more mental and behavioral health services for adults and children in the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County area. The intent is to provide a safety net system for those in need of mental health not otherwise funded in New Mexico.
According to the Bernalillo County “Public Health Projects” webs site, link provided below, 7 major projects have been approved with committed annual funding of each of those projects are as follows:
1.Transition Planning and Re-entry Resource Center. The project includes funding transition planners at MDC and creating a Re-entry Resource Center (RRC) for an effective front door into a network of services. Initial cost of $1,341,188 in year one; $1,041,188 annually thereafter.
2. Mobile Crisis Teams to respond to individuals experiencing a nonviolent behavioral health crisis that necessitates a 911-response.
3. Expansion of the County’s Community Connections Supportive Housing Program.
4. Community Connections Re-entry Supportive Housing – $1.3 million from Bernalillo County; $503,000 from City of Albuquerque.
5. Community Engagement Teams (CET) to help people and their families voluntarily cope with the effects of mental illness and substance abuse disorders, whether individual or co-occurring, in the comfort and familiarity of their homes and communities.
6. Youth Transitional Living. Funding is provided for youth transitional living services for clients with behavioral health diagnosis who are not currently under any state Children Youth and Families Department.
7. Reduction of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) – not to exceed $3 million
On October 15, 2019 he Bernalillo County Commissioners (BCC) voted and approved funding of up to $10 Million out of the behavioral health tax. In the past, priorities have included mobile crisis teams and programming for at-risk youth. The county is funding 11 of the private providers at varying amounts by contract lasting up to 3 years.
On Oct. 15, 2019 he Bernalillo County Commissioners (BCC) voted and approved funding of up to $10 Million out of the behavioral health tax to 11 providers.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It’s laughable when Tim Keller says “Violent crime in the metro area and across America has soared during the pandemic … ”. It’s laughable because he talks like he has not been Mayor during the last 4 years. Simply put, all 4 programs Keller has implemented to combat violent crime can be described as failures. The programs have had no real statistical impact on reducing crime. Violent Crime has spiked each of the 6 years before the pandemic and long before the national movement of police scrutiny and accountability.
A FAILURE TO ADMIT FAILURE
The blunt truth is that for a good 3 years before the COVID pandemic hit the city hard in 2020 under Keller’s watch, violent crime rates were spiking, so much so that 4 years ago then candidate for Mayor Tim Keller made reducing the city’s crime rates a cornerstone to his campaign. He proclaimed himself to be uniquely qualified to be Mayor and went so far as to promise that he would hire 300 sworn police officers and grow the department to 1,200 sworn police offices by the end of his first term. Today, the department has 960 sworn police and the police academy cannot keep up with retirements.
The words of Mayor Keller in his guest column and his “Metro Crime Initiative” are nothing more than a pathetic attempt to avoid acknowledging that his efforts over the past 4 years, including at least 4 programs he initiated to combat violent crime, have made little or no difference to reduce violent crime.
The entire “Metro Crime Initiative” started with the phony proposition declared by Mayor Keller and all the participants that our criminal justice system is broken. It ended with a press conference with all the participants patting each other on the back for doing such a good job and asserting they have found the solution. It’s a lot simpler to come up with a bumper sticker slogan and say the criminal justice system is broken when you do not know how to explain your inability to do your own job and are contributing to the crisis.
A CLUELESS MAYOR NOT KNOWING WHATS GOING ON AS TO BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CARE
When Keller says “ … the systems that address the most common root causes of crime, like behavioral health, are treated like an afterthought” it is a reflection of just how clueless Keller really is about the city and state’s behavioral health care system and the efforts already being made to correct it. When you examine the “Metro Crime Initiative” 40-point plan, very little was actually proposed regarding mental health initiative and it was treated as an “afterthought” with no mention of the behavioral tax funding nor expansion of those programs funded by the tax.
NOT A BROKEN SYSTEM, BUT STAKEHOLDERS FAILING
The criminal justice system in this country and this state has never been perfect, nor will it ever be, but it is not broken as the “Metro Crime Initiative” participants would have all believe, especially those that are running for office such as Tim Keller and Raul Torrez and who have been failures in dealing with the city’s high crime rates. Yes, the criminal justice system does have its flaws and a number of inequities, but to say that it is a broken system is just plain ignorance of the criminal justice system or political opportunism at its worst.
Imbedded in our constitution is how justice is served, to ensure and to protect all of our constitutional rights of presumption of innocence, due process of law and requiring convictions based on evidence. The corner stone of our criminal justice system is requiring prosecutors to prove that a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury and in a court of law.
The 3 major stakeholders in our criminal justice system that are always signaled out when it’s argued that the criminal justice system is broken are law enforcement, the prosecution and the courts. When you examine these 3 major stakeholders in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, one conclusion that can be arrived at is that they are not doing their jobs. They also have an extensive history of blaming others for their failures.
APD statistics for the budget years of 2019 and 2020 reflect the department is not doing its job of investigating and arresting people. APD felony arrests went down from 2019 to 2020 by 39.51% going down from 10,945 to 6,621. Misdemeanor arrests went down by 15% going down from 19,440 to 16,520. DWI arrests went down from 1,788 in 2019 to 1,230 in 2020, down 26%. The total number of all arrests went down from 32,173 in 2019 to 24,371 in 2020 or by 25%.
In 2019 APD had 924 full time police. In 2020, APD had 1,004 sworn police or 80 more sworn police in 2020 than in 2019, yet arrests went down during the first year of the pandemic. APD’s homicide unit has an anemic clearance rate of 36%. The police union falsely proclaims officer’s hands are tied by the DOJ reforms and are afraid of doing their jobs for fear of being disciplined.
Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Harold Medina and Police Union President Shaun Willoughby are now on the same page promoting the “big lie” that the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms are the cause of officer shortages, low morale and high crime rates. The Police Union has gone so far as to spend $70,000 on an ad campaign to disparage the reforms and blaming the consent decree for all of APD’s problems.
The Federal Monitor has documented the reform resistance and the negligent personnel management causing the problems they complain. The Federal Court and the Monitor have no management authority over APD. The departments problems are not caused by the reforms but caused by the way Keller, Medina and his 3 Deputies have implemented the reforms and union sergeant and lieutenant membership obstructing the mandated reforms.
A criminal prosecution cannot occur unless the prosecuting agency, usually the District Attorney, actually charges an offender and brings them to justice. When DA Raul Torrez ran for Bernalillo County District Attorney the first time, he said our criminal justice system was broken, it was in dire need of change and he was the guy to fix it. He is now running for Attorney General.
Within six months after being elected the first time, Torrez had his office prepare a report on the statistics regarding the number of felony cases that were being dismissed by the District Court. Torrez accused the District Court for being responsible for the rise in Albuquerque crime rates and releasing violent offenders pending trial. District Attorney Raul Torrez also accused defense attorneys of “gaming the system” in order to get cases dismissed against their clients.
A subsequent report prepared by the District Court revealed that it was the District Attorney’s office that was in fact voluntarily dismissing far more felony cases for various reasons, including his office not being prepared for trial, the office’s failure to meet discovery deadlines, and prosecutor’s failure to turn evidence over to defense counsel as mandated by law and discovery court orders.
The Bernalillo County District Attorney office currently has the highest voluntary dismissal rate in its history and indicts less than half what it would indict 10 years ago. Plea agreements with low penalties are the norm. Data given to the Supreme Court by the District court revealed overcharging and a failure to screen cases by the District Attorney’s Office contributes to a combined whopping 65% mistrial, acquittal and dismissal rate.
The courts are viewed as part of a broken criminal justice system whether they like it or not. That negative perception is aggravated when individual judges appear to be way too lenient in releasing violent felons and not holding them for trial without bond. The District Court Judges assigned to the criminal division point to the New Mexico Supreme Court’s Case Management Order (CMO), as does the District Attorney, that much of the discretion they had before to hold those charged until trial has been taken away.
Bookings at the Bernalillo County jail have plummeted from 38,349 in 2010 to 17,734 in 2020. It’s common knowledge amongst trial attorneys that Judges are concerned about their disqualification rates and appeal reversals and how they are perceived by attorneys and the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission. Judges are reluctant to make decisions and hold off on making the hard decisions to avoid controversy to protect their jobs.
One of the best examples of judges reluctant to make hard decisions was when virtually all the Second Judicial District Court Judge Civil Division recused themselves from hearing Manny Gonzales’ appeal of the City Clerk’s denial of the $661,000 in public finance. The Judges are not required to list their reasons for disqualifying themselves and therefore no one knows the reason why other than the case was politically charged. The New Mexico Supreme Court was forced to appoint a Santa Fe First Judicial District judge to hear the case.
CHECK LIST OF PROPOSALS
When you examine the “check list” of the 40 different proposals that were the result of the Metro Crime Initiative, the proposals are essentially what all the participants have been working on over the past 2 years and include many programs already announced. The list contains nothing new. The items listed are ones that the participants should have been doing in the first place.
The 40 proposals are essentially an admission by many of the participants that they have not been doing their jobs effectively from the get go. There really is nothing new other than a public relations flyer and the checklist Mayor Tim Keller could hold up during his press conference, a few weeks before an election so he can say “ignore my failures of the past 4 years and see what I have done now to combat violent crime.”
The criminal justice system at all levels is only as good as those who are responsible to make it work and succeed. The participants in the city sponsored “Metro Crime Initiative” know what is wrong with the state’s criminal justice system. They know it is not a “broken system” but a “systems failure” caused by their own failures to act and to do their jobs effectively. It is way too easy to declare the system “broken” when problems identified within the criminal justice system would go away if the stakeholders would just do their own jobs and concentrate on doing their jobs in a competent manner.
Mayor Tim Keller will likely get elected to a second 4 year term, not because he has done such a terrific job, but because his opposition Der Führer Trump candidates Sheriff Manny Gonzales and Eddy Aragon are so weak and would be worse if they were elected. Once Mayor Keller is elected again, what we can expect for another 4 years is more “smoke and mirrors” such was the “Metro Crime Initiative” as described Manny Gonzales.
The election is November 2.