The election for Albuquerque Mayor is on November 2. On the ballot for Mayor is Incumbent Mayor Tim Keller, Sheriff Manny Gonzales and Republican Trump radio talk show host Eddy Aragon. Because the City’s crime is considered the number one issue facing the city, the Albuquerque Journal published 3 separate front-page articles on crime in Albuquerque and what the announced candidates intend to do about it.
On October 5, the Albquerquerqu Journal published a front-page article with the headline “Keller says his initiatives ‘fight crime in a real way’ and was written by Journal Staff writer Matthew Reisen. The link to the full article is here:
This blog article is an in-depth review Mayor Keller’s record on combating violent crime with a a fact check on what he has said and done during his 4 years in office.
MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS OF JOURNAL ARTICLE
The major highlights of the October 6 Journal article worth noting for purposes of this blog article are as follows:
“Critics of Mayor Tim Keller point to skyrocketing homicides, jumps in shootings and low police morale as proof of his failure to fight crime. Keller pushes back, noting that violent crime has shot up throughout the country during the pandemic, not just in Albuquerque. He points to drops in Albuquerque’s property crime as a measure of his success. And he says the initiatives launched under his tenure will make the community safer in the long run.
[According to Keller] the Community Safety Department [created by Keller] will take thousands of calls off the shoulders of police, the Gateway Center will be a stand-in for jail cells and hospital beds for those experiencing homelessness and the Metro Crime Initiative will fix the “broken” criminal justice system.” …
The ACS was proposed in 2020 as an option for having social workers and trained professionals, rather than armed officers, respond to 911 calls related to homelessness, behavioral health and addiction. …
Proposed in 2020, the Gateway Center will be housed at the former Lovelace hospital on Gibson. The city has said it plans to use the 572,000-square-foot facility to shelter up to 100 individuals and 25 families.
Keller acknowledge missteps on the part of his administration, which include releasing faulty crime stats early in his tenure and more recently, backslides in police federally mandated reform efforts. As for the recent record spike in homicides and shootings, Keller and APD repeatedly attribute those to national trends.”
Previously, Keller has said he has learned much since taking office, including not to make promises such as his 2017 commitment not to raise taxes without voter approval. With four years of new insight, he says promises make sense only in “fantasyland.”
MAYOR TIM KELLER IN HIS OWN WORDS
The Journal article quotes Keller directly as saying:
“I think we have honored the commitment to fight crime in a real way. That’s not just about talking tough or doing roundups or something like that, we’re actually trying to address crime from all sides. … And we have done that. Had we not done that our city would be in a much, much worse place. … It’s either naive or disingenuous for anyone to think that our crime and drug problems are so surface level that they can just be fixed by being tougher, or by arresting people.”
“ … If it was that easy. I guarantee you, every chief that we’ve ever had, would have already done that. … I know we’re going to be in a much better position if I’m mayor than if there’s another mayor because of what I’ve learned through the process … I think making predictions or guesstimating … it’s hurtful to the process and it’s naive to think anyone can actually have a say in that. … “
“I think I’ve provided the right kind leadership at the right time and in a difficult time. So that means that not everyone is going to be happy with you all the time. I think that says you’re doing something right … I think I have been balanced in that I make tough decisions when I have to, and I stand by them. But I also learned from my mistakes.”
The link to the full Journal article containing the quotes is here:
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
In 2017 when the New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller ran for Mayor, he ran on the platform of reducing the city’s high crime rates, implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms, increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department from the then 950 to 1,200 and returning to “community-based policing”. In August, 2017, Keller went so far as 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.”
Mayor Tim Keller 4 years later now proclaims during his “real world experience” as Mayor he has learned much, including not to make promises such as his 2017 commitment not to raise taxes without voter approval, even if it was for public safety saying such promises make sense only in “fantasyland”.
Keller essentially admits his 6 years of service in the State Senate and his 18 months as New Mexico Auditor was not “real world” experience. This coming from someone who said he was “uniquely qualified” to be Mayor.
KELLER WONDERS FANTASY LAND LOOKING FOR UNICORNS
Keller now says promises make sense only in “fantasyland”. Mayor Keller has been living in “fantasy land” for the last 4 years when it comes to selecting APD leadership and dealing with crime.
On September 23, 2020 on the Bob Clark morning show, Clark while interviewing Keller noted that once Keller was elected he brought back as Chief and Deputy Chiefs personnel who had retired with APD and did not hire people from “outside” who could give “fresh eyes’ to the department.
Keller’s response was that “our town is unique when it comes to crime and being under a consent decree”. Keller actually said “you want a unicorn” who knows crime, knows the community, and who is committed the DOJ reforms.
Keller eventually appointed Harold Medina Chief despite his nefarious past of killing a 14 old child brandishing a BB gun and having a psychotic episode and years later authorizing APD sworn to use deadly force in the shooting and killing of 27-year-old Iraq Veteran James Ellis III suffering from post-traumatic syndrome threatening to kill himself.
Keller making promises while living in a fantasyland ostensibly includes:
1. His promise to have 1,200 sworn police by the end of his first term with APD now at 900 sworn police
2. His promise to implement the DOJ reforms and
3. His promise to conduct a “national search” for a new police chief only to settle on retired former APD brass who participated in, helped create, or did not stop the culture of aggression within APD that resulted in excessive use of force and deadly force.
REFUSAL TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILTY
Mayor Keller says:
“I don’t think it’s fair to say that there’s something we could have done that would have prevented an increase in homicide … I think all around the country, it’s just shown that that’s just not true right now. … I think I’ve provided the right kind leadership at the right time and in a difficult time …”
It’s not an issue of being fair, not an issue of leadership, but one of being held accountable for failing to do what you promise to do as an elected official. Keller’s comments about homicides prevention are a pathetic attempt to avoid admitting his programs to prevent violent crime have failed. He wants the public to forget the promises he made 4 years ago.
The blunt truth is that the pandemic has had nothing to do with the city’s violent crime rates nor national trends. It was in January, 2020, that 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
According to the 2020 FBI Unified Crime Reports:
Albuquerque has a crime rate of 194% higher than the national average.
Albuquerque’s Violent Crime Index for 2020 is 346% of the national average.
Albuquerque Property Crime Index for 2020 is 256% of 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.
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. Keller recently launched his “Community Safety Department” and concluded his “Metro Crime Initiative” which he claimed will fix the “broken criminal justice” system.
All 6 initiatives involve early intervention and partnership with other agencies and summarized 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.
2. DECLARING VIOLENT CRIME A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS
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 crisis” and dealing with crimes involving guns in an effort to bring down violent crime in Albuquerque.
3. THE “VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PLAN” 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. …”
The “Violence Intervention Plan” can be described as a “fantasy land” experiment especially when there is little that can be done to prevent the violent crime of murder by “trying to get these people not to shoot each other” and “understanding who they are and why they are engaged in violent crime.”
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 of Keller’s programs can be described as failures and not having any real statistical impact on reducing crime. The 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.
Four years ago, Keller 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 900 sworn police and the police academy cannot keep up with retirements.
5. METRO CRIME INITIATIVE
In the last few months, Mayor Keller has been mimicking District Attorney Raul Torres blaming our rising crime rates on “the broken criminal justice system”. Keller has gone so far as to say the criminal justice system is a “revolving door” in one of his election TV ads.
On September 23, Mayor Keller concluded a conference he dubbed he the “Metro Crime Initiative”. Participants included APD, the DA’s Office, the Courts and many other stakeholders to address what all participants labelled the “broken criminal justice” system.
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. 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 by Keller with the hope that once implemented they will lower Albuquerque’s crime efficiently and quickly. All the participants patted each other on the back for doing such a good job and asserting they have found the solution.
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.
A detail “check list” pamphlet was produces containing details of each action plan and can be found here:
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.”
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.
As Mayor, Tim Keller has management and control over APD which is part of the criminal justice system that Keller proclaims to be broken. APD statistics for the budget years of 2019 and 2020 reflect that APD 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%. Bookings at the jail have plummeted from 38,349 in 2010 to 17,734 in 2020. You can not have booking unless arrests are made. APD’s homicide unit has an anemic clearance rate of 36%.
When DA Raul Torrez ran for Bernalillo County District Attorney the first time, he said our criminal justice system was broken. 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 Courts of being responsible for the rise in crime and releasing violent offenders pending trial. Mayor Tim Keller went along with DA Torres when they wrote a joint letter to the New Mexico Supreme Court demanding that the District Court abandon preliminary hearings and allow for more grand jury time.
Torrez accused defense attorneys of “gaming the system” to get cases dismissed against clients. A subsequent report to the Supreme Court prepared by the District Court revealed it is the DA’s office dismissing more felony cases for various reasons. The DA’s office currently has the highest voluntary dismissal rate in its history, and 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 DA’s Office contributes to a combined 65% mistrial, acquittal and dismissal rate.
The courts are viewed as part of a broken criminal justice system. Mayor Tim Keller has now started to criticize the courts. Keller blamed the District Court when an accused felon was released without bond pending trial and was able to remove his court order ankle monitor. He was found and taken into custody. The District Court points 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.
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 Mayor Tim Keller and the “Metro Crime Initiative” participants would have everyone to believe, especially those that are running for office such as Tim Keller 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 in an election year.
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.
6. COMMUNITY SAFETY DEPARTMENT
On September 7, Keller’s new Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACSD) dispatched 3 two person teams, or 6 people total, of civilians trained as behavioral health responders to commence handling certain 911 calls in order to reduce the number of calls for service handled by Albuquerque police. The ACS program will operate 24/7 once fully staffed with upwards of 100 trained behavioral health responders. The Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS) is a department that is a proposed solution to reduce APD’s calls for service involving mental health calls and to transfer such calls to another civilian department with mental health experts to deal with those in crisis. It is a department that must be equipped to respond to 911 calls related to addiction problems and behavioral health issues or it will fail and fail miserably and may even result in a social worker getting killed.
For the Fiscal Years of F/Y 14 to F/Y 20 the total number of 911 calls for service to APD were:
FY/14 # of Calls for service: 518,553
FY/15 # of Calls for service: 518,751
FY/16 # of Calls for service: 547,854
FY/17 # of Calls for service: 564,610
FY/18 # of Calls for service: 580,303
FY/19 # of Calls for service: 543,574
FY/20 # of Calls for service: 524,286
The new ACS department is not the panacea Keller wants it to be when it comes to reducing violent crime. Ostensibly, ACS will not have the authority to arrest and APD will have to be called. The goal is to have the ACS respond to 3,000 calls a month, but those calls will be to the lowest priority calls of priority 3,4 and 5 or none violent calls in general. There is no real breakdown as to how many of those calls are related to addiction problems and behavioral health issues. If the ACS responds to 3,000 calls a month, it will free up sworn police for other calls, but it will not have much of a direct impact on violent crime in that violent crimes will still have to be handled and solved by APD. As noted above, APD receives well over 500,000 calls for service a year. In 2020, APD received 524,286 calls for service or upwards of 40,000 calls for service a month of the year and the ACSD hopefully will handle 36,000 a year.
APD ARRESTS HAVE PLUMMETED
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.
HISTORICAL LOW HOMICIDE CLEARANCE RATES UNDER KELLER
For the past three 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 clearance rate has dropped to 50%. Of the 75 homicides thus far in 2020, half remain unsolved. There are only a dozen homicide detectives each with caseloads high above the national average.
AUTO THEFTS STILL HIGH UNDER KELLER
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. On July 30, 2020, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that Albuquerque is now ranked #2 in the nation for auto theft.
KELLER’S FALSE CLAIMS OF REDUCING CRIME
When Keller took office on December 1, 2017, every quarter when APD released the city’s crime statistics, Mayor Keller would do a press conference to proclaim and to some extent take credit for crime going down in all categories. He did so on July 1, 2019. Mayor Keller reported that crime was down substantially, with double-digit drops, in nearly every category.
On Sunday, December 1, 2019 the Albuquerque Journal reported that all the crime rate reductions Keller reported in his July 1, 2019 press conference were in fact seriously flawed by big percentages. Both the 2019 mid-year statistics and the statistics released at the end of 2018 were revised dramatically to include hundreds, and in some cases thousands, more incidents than were initially reported. The final numbers for all of 2018 showed violent crime actually increased.
At an October 2019 meeting of the City Council, APD provided the revised statistics but failed to disclose to the council that the numbers had changed drastically. Mayor Keller also did not hold any kind of a press conference to correct nor announce the corrected statistics. The Keller Administration blamed the false numbers on antiquated software programs, but only after the Keller Administration had essentially been caught by the Albuquerque Journal. Mayor Keller for his part has never issued his own personal apology for misleading the public and trying to take credit for bringing down crime rates by using false statistics.
The corrected crime statistics from those announced by Keller are:
Auto burglaries decreased 16%, not 38% as previously announced by Keller
Auto theft decreased 22%, not 39% as Keller reported
Commercial burglary decreased 3%, not the 27% Keller reported
Residential burglary decreased 16%, not 39% as Keller reported
Homicide decreased 2.5%, not 18%, but homicides have since increased substantially and the city has tied the all-time record of 71.
Rape decreased 3%, not the 29% Keller reported
Robbery decreased 30%, not 47% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault decreased 7.5%, not 33% reported by Keller
The link to the full December 1, 2029 Journal article is here:
KELLER’S FAILURE TO GROW APD TO LEVEL PROMISED
Tim Keller campaigned to be elected mayor on the platform of increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), returning to community-based policing and promising to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. To that end, the Keller Administration began implementing an $88 million-dollar APD police expansion program increasing the number of sworn police officers from 898 positions filled to 1,200, or by 302 sworn police officers, over a four-year period. The massive investment was ordered by Mayor Tim Keller to full fill his 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. Keller promised to increase the number of sworn police in the department to 1,200 by the end of his first term.
The current city budget authorizes up to 1,140 sworn officers. APD Police Chief Harold Medina says the needs 1,200 sworn. As of late July, APD sworn police numbered 939, leaving about 200 positions vacant. Forty-eight cadets are expected to join the ranks by the end of October. The new cadet class will bring the number of vacancies down to 152 vacancies of sworn police. Recent reports say APD is down to 900 sworn police.
NORMALLY WOULD BE ONE TERM MAYOR
During the last 4 years under Mayor Tim Keller’s leadership, things have only gotten worse in the city. In normal times, Tim Keller would be a one term Mayor given his record of broken promises, failures and inability to deal with the city’s crime wave. The sweeping and dynamic change that Keller was perceived to represent in 2017 never materialized. APD continues to implode, violent crime is still out of control. All we got is a Mayor who likes to run around the city acting like a high school football jock who has been elected student body president and who likes to attend heavy metal concerts to introduce the band. An immature, middle age man who likes to act like he is some sort of celebrity and not the chief executive of a major United States city.
Normally, voters are a very fickle lot and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. Sooner rather than later people demand and want results. But not in the age of the Corona Virus. Campaign promises made in 2017 and promises not kept by 2021 really do not matter from a political standpoint.
The reality is that no one really cares about a politician’s poor job performance when they are struggling to make a living, make ends meet and struggling to keep themselves and their family’s healthy and safe from the Corona Virus as bills add up. In the age of the Covid 19 pandemic, none of Keller’s failures nor broken promises will likely make much of a difference to the voting public given the image he has carefully crafted with his relentless public relations and the lack of viable candidate to oppose him.
On November 2, 2021 Voters will decide if Keller has “done a good” job of leadership and if he deserves a second 4-year term.
Links to related news articles are here:
‘I’ve learned’: Keller touts real-world experience
Q&A mayoral candidate Tim Keller
The link to a related blog article is here: