On December 28, APD Chief Harold Medina and his upper command staff held a press conference to discuss the city’s homicides for the year, the clearance of cases and overall trends. As of December 31, the city’s homicide number stood at 120. It’s a record number for Albuquerque police homicide investigations. Last year’s total number was 117 for the year.
A total of 90 cases were solved in 2022 and 117 suspects were arrested, charged, or died. A majority of those cases come from homicides that happened this year but a few are from last year. According to Chief Medina, half the murders were connected to a violent crime, like robberies during drug or gun deals but he believes there has been a rise in mental health related killings. Medina said this:
“We’ve had some horrific domestic violence type calls with individuals so I think to me just anecdotal thinking it’s going to be the increase in mental health related homicides.”
APD gave a rundown on the demographics of people who have been arrested for murders this year. As for gender, APD reported 84% of the arrests were men and 16% were women, and 11 of the arrests were juveniles. Medina said parents need to help when it comes to juveniles being arrested and he said this:
“So many of these trends parents can help with, you know educating their kids on the dangers of parties, parents not having parties for their kids thinking they’re going to control who comes and goes from the parties.”
According to APD, there have were 120 murder victims in 2022. APD reported it has arrested 117 suspects this year. Of the 117 suspects arrested, 81 were involved in cases from 2022 and 36 are related to cases from previous years. APD reported that there are still 51 unsolved murders.
APD reported that a majority of homicide suspects arrested this year also had criminal history. APD said 50% of the suspects had a violent crime past.
Most of the cases solved this year involved guns. Chief Medina said there is an ongoing concern with the number of guns being illegally sold on the black market.
APD credits their success of solving cases to additional resources they had this year, including increasing the number of personnel assigned to the homicide unit. APD Deputy Commander Kyle who oversees the department’s Criminal Investigations Division said the changes and additions to APD’s investigative units have helped the department clear more cases this year. Hartsock said advances in technology, better investigative training and working with prosecutors have also played a part. 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.”
APD officials say they are focusing on making sure justice is served. Part of that is making sure state lawmakers provide the means to improve the criminal justice system. APD said it wants to see an investment into young adult courts and processes within the city, as well as tackling arrest warrants. APD public information Officer Gilbert Gallegos has this to say:
“We’ve called on the Legislature to really invest their resources into the entire criminal justice system. We don’t want to see these cases, pled out or fall through the cracks because there’s not sufficient resources to try them.”
Links to quoted news sources are here:
MID YEAR SUCCES REPORTED
According to a July 9, 2022 Albuquerque Journal report, the Albuquerque Police Department was 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:
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:
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
2022: 120 homicides
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 was 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 homicide clearance rates for the Albuquerque Police Department are disclosed 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% one year.
According to the 2020, 2021 and 2022 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%
Fiscal year 2022 approved budget, Page 231:
The link to review all city budgets from Fiscal years 2007 to 2023 is here:
CALCULATING APD CLEARANCE RATE FOR 2022
As reported above, the annual clearance rate for APD since 2017 has been as high as 80% and as low as 37%. In 2021, the clearance rate was 37%, in 2020 it was 53%, in 2019 it was 57%, in 2018 it was 47% and in 2017 it was 70% and in 2016 it was 80%.
On May 19, 2022 it was reported that APD proclaimed it had a 97% clearance rate with 47 suspects arrested, charged or identified in 40 recent and past homicide cases. Of the 47 suspects arrested, charged or identified as of May, 23 were suspected in 2022 homicides and 24 in previous year homicides, 17 from 2021, two from 2020 and five from 2019.
The problem is that APD calculated the 97% clearance rate by relying only on the 40 cases that were actually being investigated from January 1 to May 19 thereby resulting in the inflated clearance rate. The problem is that is not how it’s done by the FBI.
Each year since 1995, the FBI releases annually its Crime In The United States Report. The Marshall Project describes the FBI’s method of calculating clearance rate as “blunt math…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 including clearance of old and new cases, a department’s rate in any particular year could exceed 100%. This leaves the statistics open to “statistical noise,” but ultimately can be useful for examining trends over a longer term.
In 2022 there were 120 homicides as of December 31 and 90 homicide cases were reported as solved, which included 36 cases from previous years. Using the FBI method of calculating murder clearance rates for 2022 , there were a total of 90 homicide cases cleared in 2022, the total number of new homicide cases was 120 for the calendar year which results in a clearance rate of 75%. (90 cases cleared in 2022, 120 new cases for 2022 = 75% clearance rate.)
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
APD’s clearance rate last year was a miserable 37% and as it stands now for 2022 it is an impressive 75%. There is little doubt that APD has had an impressive year in increasing its homicide clearance rate by 38% going from 37% to 75%. APD and its homicide are recognized and commended for doing their jobs of doubling down on the resources to solve cases not only from this year but previous years. APD needs to continue with what they are doing in 2023 to solve cases to refer them to the District Attorney for prosecution such that justice can be served.
City residents and the victim families can take comfort with APD being able to increase solving the number of homicide cases. However, the blunt truth is the solving murder cases does not and will not make the city any safer as the city breaks all time records for the past 5 years in homicides and violent crime.