On May 19, 2022 and then again on July 9, 2022, the Albuquerque Journal reported that the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is doing a better job of solving the city’s homicides in 2022 than in the past several years, even as murders and violent crime around the city are on pace to match last year’s record high. That may be true, but APD has skewed the statistics to embellish its results for public relations purposes.
This blog article is an analysis of APD’s clearance rates along with review of the city’s homicide per capita rate with murders having spiked dramatically with more murders than ever before and breaking all-time records.
MAY 19 JOURNAL REPORT
On May 19, in a Albuquerque Journal report, APD officials proclaimed they had a 97% clearance rate for the time period of January 1 to May 19, 2022, with 47 suspects arrested, charged or identified in 40 recent and past homicide cases. The 97% figure is very misleading with the actual clearance rate being 18.5% which is calculated below.
What the 97% represents are murder investigations done and completed during the 5-month period from January 1, 2022 to May 19, 2022. It involves those murder cases that were actively being investigated by APD during that time period. It does not include all pending murder investigations that must be investigated and are classified as still pending or unsolved.
The 47 arrests actually represent only 20% of the total 186 homicides that occurred between January 1, 2021 and May 19, 2022. The 97% simply does not track with the clearance rates delineated in APD performance budget measures nor with the manner and method used by the FBI.
Each year since 1995, the FBI releases annually its Crime In The United States Report.
“At the national level, the FBI uses blunt math to calculate a clearance rate, dividing the number of crimes that were cleared, no matter which year the crime occurred, by the number of new crimes in the calendar year. By clearing old and new cases, a department’s rate in any given year could exceed 100%. This leaves the numbers prone to statistical “noise,” but they can be useful for examining trends over the long term.”
The APD annual clearance rate since 2017 has been between 53% and 65%, and actually dropped to 37% in 2021. On April 19, APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the clearance rate of 97% included cases forwarded to the district attorney for possible charges. Of the 47 suspects arrested, charged or identified as of May 19, 23 were suspected in 2022 homicides and 24 in previous year homicides. 17 were from 2021, two from 2020 and five from 2019. Four suspects are dead and 3 are fugitives.
On May 19, Police Chief Harold Medina for his part said in his decades with the department he has never seen so many cases solved in such a short time. Medina gave credit to the leadership of the Homicide Unit and the detectives. Medina said this:
“They have worked hard, they’ve made changes, and they’re working as a team to solve these cases. … Great coaches and great leaders push their teams to do extraordinary things. … These investigations take months … sometimes there’s a misconception, people watch TV and, in one hour, they solved the homicide case and somebody’s in custody. … Our cases take a whole lot longer but they’re a whole lot stronger because of this … because the last thing we want is to build a case that fails in the homestretch.”
Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock said advances in technology, better investigative training and working with prosecutors have all played a part in the unit’s development. Hartsock had this to say:
“This is one of the rare times we are arresting more people than new cases are coming our way. … This is a significant achievement.”
Mayor Tim Keller for his part had this to say about the improved clearance rates:
“[This sends a] powerful signal to criminals in our city. … You will be held accountable; we will catch you and we are demonstrating that right now. That also means for victims and for the justice system, we’re going to do our part. We’ve got a lot of holes and a lot more work to do. But we’re showing that we actually can do this.”
The link to quoted news source material:
JULY 9, 2022 JOURNAL REPORT
According to a July 9, 2022 Albuquerque Journal report, the Albuquerque Police Department is solving nearly twice as many homicide cases despite dramatic increases in homicides. APD credited the success to more detectives and a victim-oriented approach based on teamwork, oversight and training.
APD Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock, who oversees the homicide unit, said although the cases, victims and suspects change, the trends and the causes if the homicides remain largely the same. According to Hartsock, “individual disrespect”, which he defined as a dispute for one reason or another, is one of the biggest motives for homicides and account for 50 of this year’s homicides.
Hartsock said many of the disputes that result in a homicide start over social media but end “in the street.” According to Hartstock:
“We see people go on Instagram Live and start talking trash and people they’re talking about get on the comments like ‘let’s meet up. … If there wasn’t a gun with one of these two people, it just wouldn’t have been a homicide, it would have been something else. A fistfight. … I think it’s pretty astonishing that we’re on the same pace we were last year right now for murders – and we’ve more than doubled the clearance rate. … We can’t keep at this pace without lots of stress and strain on the unit. … So we’re still hoping that number comes back down to closer to what it was over the past five, six years.”
The link to the quotes full Albuquerque Journal report is here
LOCATION AND AGES
Most homicides in Albuquerque happened in the Southeast, the Valley and Southwest area commands. The Southeast Area command had 24 homicides, the Valley Area Command had 14 and the Southwest had 12 homicides.
APD also reported that 2022 has seen more young victims and suspects. There have been 10 people killed and seven arrested who are 17 and under. Last year there were only 4 killed and three arrested, numbers similar to previous years. The youngest person killed in 2022 was 5-month-old baby, Trinity Garcia, and the oldest was 69-year-old Abelito Rivera Sr., allegedly beaten to death by his son.
APD Chief Harold Medina for his part said that in 2022, there have been homicides involving mental illness something he believes is connected to a national trend of rising violence. Medina also said APD is seeing suspects with “zero criminal history” and explained it this way:
“It’s important to recognize that each year, a new generation grows into this group of individuals that are potentially violent … And it seems that during the pandemic … more and more individuals are entering that realm of becoming violent and possibly killing people.”
APD’S CLEARANCE RATES
The July 19 Albuquerque Journal reported APD’s clearance rate in mid-July last year was 47%. However, in its budget performance measures for 2021, APD reported its clearance rate was 37% in mid-2021.
APD Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock repeated the claim that in 2022, the clearance rate sits at 97%. Hartsock claimed the clearance rate includes cases solved in 2022 from this and previous years and is calculated by arrests made, charges filed or other means of solving a homicide. APD includes closed justified homicide cases toward the department’s clearance rate. As noted above, this is simply not how the FBI calculates homicide clearance rates.
According to APD records reviewed by the Journal, APD has made an arrest, filed charges or otherwise cleared 34 of the 2022 homicide cases which as of July 19, there were 67. What this means is that APD has thus far cleared 50% of the 2022 homicide cases. (34 cleared cases is 50% of 67 homicides in 2022.) According to APD, the unit has also cleared 19 cases from previous years in 2022. Thus far in 2022, there have been 67 homicides and last year there were 117 homicides for a grand total of 184.
Using the FBI method of calculating murder clearance rates, clearing 34 cases out of 184 total cases for 2021 and 2022 is actually an 18.2 % clearance rate, not the 97% APD is claiming. The 18.5% is calculated as follows: 117 total homicides for 2021 + 69 homicides thus far in 2022 = 186 homicides DIVIDED into 34 cases claimed cleared by APD = 18.2% clearance rate for the time period of January 1, 2021 to July 19, 2022.
Some cases have multiple arrests, multiple victims or are cleared by the suspect’s death. Hartsock said this:
“To me, that’s the biggest measurement we can give, everything else is kind of a feeling on how it’s working. … But at the end of the day, we’re solving more cases, when we apply this formula … it just works.”
APD leaders said they have increased the number of detectives but are basically using the same resources, just in a different way, to get results. The unit currently has 16 detectives, some who are still in training, which is the highest number the department has ever had.
APD made a push to add several new detectives over the past year to match the pace of homicides. According to Criminal Investigations Division Commander George Vega, they are using teamwork and an emphasis on assistance from the Digital Intelligence Unit, District Attorney’s Office and others to solve cases faster.
Hartsock said a new review process has detectives meet with a supervisor at the two-day and 60-day mark following a homicide, to go over where the case stands and what it needs to be solved. Hartsock said this:
“A lot of these meetings have turned out arrest warrants within days, because when you’re the detective, there’s so much information … it’s a lot to process and you kind of lose sight. … When we force the other experienced eyes to get on it. We come up with a clear plan almost every time.”
APD Chief Medina for his part said the detective academy is also making a difference and he had this to say:
“We’re finding that [new detectives are] hitting the ground running faster, and actually producing very good quality work and getting results quicker.”
Medina also said there has been pushback from the unit because of extra oversight of the unit and that has been a “culture change” for the unit.
Criminal Investigations Division Commander George Vega said for those detectives who are resistant to change, they need to see and appreciate the results and said:
“Once we show them the success and the new resources that are in the building – everybody likes to be a part of something that’s successful,” he said. “That’s where we’re at now is we’re showing them – we’re giving them a path to take – and we feel like they’re starting to really grab onto it.”
The link to the full unedited and quoted Journal report is here:
THE RISING RED TIDE OF MURDERS
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.”
Tim Keller ran on the platform promising to reduce the city’s crime rates, increase the number of sworn police and return to community-based policing. It was in 2019 that 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. Those APD programs are: the Shield Unit, Declaring Violent Crime a “public health” issue, the Metro 15 Operation, “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP Program). Based on the city’s high murder rates, it appears Keller’s programs have been a failure.
During each year of Mayor Tim Keller’s years in office, the city’s murder rates rose, dropped one year, and then rose to a historical high. Following is the breakdown of homicide by year:
2017: 72 homicides
2018: 69 homicides.
2019: 82 homicides
2020: 76 homicides
2021: 117 homicides (Per capita murder rate of 20.8 per 100,000.)
2022: 69 homicides as of July 19 (By July 2020, there were 65.)
The link to quoted source material is here:
NATIONAL CLEARANCE RATES
Following are the national clearance rates for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 as reported by the FBI:
In 2016, the national clearance rate for murder offenses was 59.4%.
In 2017, the national clearance rate for murder was 61.6%
In 2018, the national clearance rate for murder was 62.3%
In 2019, the national clearance rate for murder was 61.4%
The links to retrieve and review the above clearance rates are here:
From 2019 to 2020, police across the country solved 1,200 more murders, a 14% increase. But murders rose twice as quickly by 30%.
As a result, the homicide clearance rate, the percentage of crimes cleared, dropped to a historic low to about 1 of every 2 murders solved or by 50%.
In 2021, the national clearance rate for 2021 stands at 50%
CITY’S HISTORICAL HOMICIDE CLEARANCE RATE HALF NATIONAL AVERAGE
The city of Albuquerque is a performance-based budget. Each year, city departments must submit statistics to substantiate their accomplishments and justify their budgets. The clearance rates for the Albuquerque Police Department can be found in the annual APD city budgets.
For the years 2019 to 2021, the city’s homicide clearance percentage rate have been in the 50%-60% range but have in fact dropped dramatically to less than 40%.
According to the 2020, 2021 and 2021 APD approved city budget, following are APD’s homicide clearance rates for the years 2016 to 2021:
FISCAL YEAR 2019 APD APPROVED BUDGET PERFORMANCE MEASURES
2016: APD homicide clearance rate 80%
Fiscal year 2019 APD approved budget, Page 212:
FISCAL YEAR 2020 APD APPROVED BUDGET PERFORMANCE MEASURES
2017: APD homicide clearance rate 70%.
2018: APD homicide clearance rate 47%.
Fiscal year 2020, approved budget, Page 213:
FISCAL YEAR 2021 APD APPROVED BUDGET PERFORMANCE MEASURES
2018: APD homicide clearance rate 47%.
2019: APD homicide clearance rate 57%
Fiscal year 2021 approved budget, Page 227:
FISCAL YEAR 2022 APPROVED BUDGET PERFORMANCE MEASURES
2020: APD’s homicide clearance rate 53%.
2021: APD’ clearance rate 37% (reported as estimated actual)
Fiscal year 2022 approved budget, Page 231:
The link to review all city budgets from Fiscal years 2007 to 2023 is here:
APD Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock oversees the homicide unit. On January 20, 2022, Hartsock said APD is investigating 115 homicides from last year and of that number, only about 30% had been closed, which was an all-time record low for APD.
Links to news source material are here:
CITY’S HOMICIDE RATES
Homicides in Albuquerque rose dramatically from 2015 to 2017 and as a result so did the city’s yearly homicide rates per capita at 100,000 population:
2015: 7.68 per 100,000 people. This was a 43.02% increase from 2014
2016: 10.86 per 100,000 people. This was a 41.41% increases from 2015.
2017: 12.47 per 100,000 people. This was a 14.83% increase from 2016.
2018: 12.32% per 100,000 people. This was a decline of 1.2% from 2017.
MEDINA’S ACTS OF INSUBORDINATION TO BECOME CHIEF RECALLED
What Chief Harold Medina said in part about the recent homicide clearance rates merits repeating and compels scrutiny:
“They have worked hard, they’ve made changes, and they’re working as a team to solve these cases. … Great coaches and great leaders push their teams to do extraordinary things.”
It is very difficult not to laugh out loud at Medina’s remarks about teamwork given the manner and method he used to become APD Chief.
It was on December 1, 2017 that Mayor Tim Keller was elected Mayor the first time and he appointed Michael Geier as APD Chief. As gun violence continued to increase, many plans were formulated to address it.
In 2019, in response to the continuing increase in violent crime rates, Mayor Keller scrambled to implement 4 major crime fighting programs to reduce violent crime: the Shield Unit, Declaring Violent Crime “Public Health” issue, the “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP program) and the Metro 15 Operation Program. Based upon the statistics, the Keller programs have had very little effect on reducing violent crime.
Chief Geier and a commander created a “violence reduction plan” that included scheduling regular meetings and brainstorming sessions for officers to talk with their supervisors about patterns in fatal shootings and shootings with injury in their area commands and come up with plans to address it. Geier doubled the size of the homicide unit and further instituted APD initiatives to reduce gun violence. It was these measures instituted by Geier that explains in part the reduction in the homicide rate in 2018.
One of those Geier placed in charge of intuiting “the violence reduction plan” was then Deputy Chief Harold Medina. It turns out Medina deliberately did not implement one program but instead orchestrated the termination of Geier in order to replace him. In 2020, Medina was appointed to replace Geier and homicides skyrocketed to 117 in 2021 during Medina’s first year as Chief. In 2020 homicides had in fact gone down from 82 homicides in 2019 to 76 under Chief Geier.
Geier has said Medina never embraced the “violence reduction plan” went so far as to not instruct his officers to follow it through. Geier said Medina delayed launching the program was by six weeks, and those under Medina’s command had to undergo remedial training on the project again because they still didn’t understand it. Medina told Geier it was too confusing.
Geier wrote in a memo to Medina dated August 31, 2020:
“We had a number of discussions over the next several months and it appeared that you made little effort to bring your people on board. … On May 19, 2020, I had to issue Special Order 20-40 in an effort to make up for lost time in our efforts to reduce gun violence. Rather than reductions, APD saw significant increases for over 4 months in this regard.”
In his memo to Medina, Geier wrote the startling comment that he felt like it’s “almost as if you made an effort to make this program fail … [and your] behavior has “bordered on insubordination.”
Geier wrote Medina that he intended to move him from the field services bureau. “I plan on discussing this with [CAO] Sarita [Nair] at our weekly update meeting this coming Friday, September 4th. I expect you to handle your new position as a professional so as to renew my faith and trust in you.”
Geier made the very serious mistake of giving Medina a heads up that he would be talking to Nair because what Medina did was to run to Nair where they orchestrated Geier’s departure. What is pathetic is Medina initiated his own version of “violence reduction plan” where regular meetings and brainstorming sessions for officers to talk with their supervisors about patterns in fatal shootings occurs.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
APD and its homicide unit needs to be recognized and commended for doing their jobs and doubling the number of the cases it is solving. However, Chief Harold Medina and APD loses credibility with the public when the command staff skews the numbers proclaiming a 97% clearance rate by simply including in its calculations only those cases they are actually investigating during a period of time while others remain pending. This is not how the FBI calculates murder clearance rates and its not how APD reports them in their performance measures. It is this type of sneaky and misleading conduct that results in APD losing credibility with the public.
The city is on track to break the all-time record of 117 homicides this year. The city’s per capita homicide rate will likely end up being upwards of 15% another all-time record. APD’s clearance rate last year for 2021 was a miserable 37% and when it’s all said and done for 2022, it’s likely it will not improve that much more because of the staggering increase in homicides. The clearance rate will likely be around 40% for the year 2022.
City residents can only take limited comfort with APD being able to increase solving the number of homicide cases. City residents should not be lulled into a sense of safety simply because APD proclaims it has a 97% clearance rate when in fact it is actually upwards of 40%. The blunt truth is the solving of murder cases does not and will not make the city any safer.