New Mexico climbed to the No. 1 spot among U.S. states when comparing property crime rates last year, according to data released by the FBI on Monday.
And it had the second highest rate for violent crime, following Alaska.
Although it can be difficult to rank states with varying characteristics and demographics against one another, the data does tell New Mexicans that the crime rate is something to be concerned about, said Paul Guerin, a senior research scientist at the Center for Applied Research and Analysis.
“When you look at crime itself, and look at these rates it tells a story that New Mexico is higher than other places,” he said. “But it doesn’t tell us why.”
But Guerin said there are many factors that can be used to help explain why the crime rate is so high — including substance abuse, socioeconomic issues, and even the fact that the state is crossed by major interstates leading to the West Coast and to Mexico.
He added that many more factors remain that need to be studied to determine why crime has spiked dramatically, particularly in Albuquerque, over the past couple of years.
Much of New Mexico’s reported crime is driven by Albuquerque, the state’s largest city. About 27 percent of the population calls Albuquerque home, but the city was home to 42.7 percent of violent crime and 47 percent of property crime in New Mexico.
Many of the state’s other cities — including Carlsbad, Taos and Las Cruces — showed declines in crime, although the rates increased slightly in Santa Fe.
In 2016, New Mexico law enforcement agencies reported 81,931 property crimes and 14,619 violent crimes throughout the state, according to the FBI’s Crime in the United States. That’s a rate of 3,937.1 property crimes and 702.5 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Across the nation the property crime rate per 100,000 residents was 2,450.7 and the violent crime rate was 386.3.
The District of Columbia reported more crimes in both categories, but it is not a state.
Guerin warned that the reported data can give a skewed picture of each state because different agencies may classify crimes differently.
“Aggravated assault in Colorado is not always the same in Idaho or Montana,” he said. “That’s one of the cautions the UCR makes.”
New Mexico’s high ranking comes on the heels of 2015, when the state was ranked No. 3 for violent crime and No. 2 for property crime. Violent crimes include murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes include burglary, larceny and theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
More than 65 percent of stolen vehicles were reported stolen from Albuquerque in 2016, which had an increase of 49 percent over 2015.
A previously released report using 2016 data from the National Crime Information Center, found that the Albuquerque area — including Bernalillo, Sandoval, Torrance and Valencia Counties — ranked No. 1 in the nation for auto thefts.