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Thursday, May 26, 2011
Homicides Concern Neighborhood
By Astrid Galvan
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
It was once called the "War Zone."
That changed when residents of the Trumbull neighborhood — in what is now called the International District — worked closely with police for years to bring the notorious crime rate down.
And they did so successfully, leaders say.
For the past eight years or so, the area has averaged one homicide per year, a relatively low number considering the once volatile nature of the neighborhood.
But that changed this year — the area has already seen four homicides and the year isn't half over.
At least one community leader is concerned that Trumbull, which has more than 7,000 residents, is going back to its old ways.
"We're not police, so we don't know if there's a link. All we know is there's more homicides than usual. All we know is, whoa, there's three years worth of homicides in one year, and it's a concern," said Joanne Landry, president of the Trumbull Village Neighborhood Association.
Landry has organized a community meeting today at 6 p.m. at the Cesar Chavez Community Center to rally neighbors into being more proactive.
Police say the homicides this year have nothing in common with one another and are not indicative of an increase in violent crime.
"There is not a trend that says we have a violent gang, we have a serial killer. It's not something we can put a trend to," said Albuquerque police Commander Murray Conrad, who oversees the Southeast Heights.
For example, one homicide was a drug deal gone bad. Another was a domestic violence stabbing; a third was the brutal beating of a 2-year-old boy who died as a result of his injuries; and the fourth victim was suffocated by an acquaintance.
Conrad, who has spent his entire law enforcement career in the area, said police have worked closely with the neighborhood association to reduce violent crime there.
"APD addressed all the gun crimes in Trumbull and La Mesa. We were able to get the homicides down, and we have made huge strides dealing with the violent crimes in these neighborhoods," Conrad said.
Landry, who helped create the neighborhood association in 2004, said she has noticed less police presence lately and thinks that is a contributing factor to the increase in homicides. She said she started to notice more crime in August of last year and felt ignored in her attempts to get APD's attention.
But police filed more than 1,200 reports in the area last year alone, Conrad said, and officers continually monitor the area.
"I drive the area two or three times a day. I personally am in those areas," he said.
Landry said she does not want to waste time blaming anyone, but start collaborating instead.
"Our whole objective is to activate the community. It's not a gripe meeting or to point fingers at anybody," she said.
Landry said she wants to expand the watch group, which she says has shrunk because of high turnover among residents. About 80 percent of Trumbull is made up of apartment rentals, Landry said. The neighborhood association now consists of about a dozen people who are also members of her church, Inter Faith Bible Center.
Trumbull Village is made up of mostly apartment complexes, many of which are low-income housing. The community is ethnically diverse. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was notoriously dangerous and infiltrated by gangs, but revitalization efforts, spearheaded by city lawmakers and residents alike, helped bring a new image. About six years ago, the city started condemning and knocking down old apartment buildings and building houses and newer apartments. A large, more upscale apartment complex is due to open within months.
"We really are trying to turn the concept of our community around," she said.
Meanwhile, police will continue to battle the more prevalent crimes that affect Trumbull, Conrad said.
"What seems to be out of control still is armed robberies. Those are the things that we are really struggling with, because they're random. The guys hit so fast and they're out. It's tough to be able to address that," Conrad said.
Conrad said officers and special units are constantly hitting the streets.
"We want these people to walk to the grocery store, to have their kids outside of the apartment, not locked up inside," Conrad said. "Our goal is that quality of life."