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Editorial: Study reinforces focus on ‘worst of worst’ criminals

A new report by the Albuquerque Innovation Team on the demographics of people arrested here between January 2010 (the year Albuquerque’s crime rate started increasing) through the end of 2016 indicates local law enforcement’s plan to target repeat offenders is a sound strategy.

For law-abiding residents, it can’t come soon enough.

Per capita, Albuquerque is No. 1 in the nation for car thefts and property crime, and New Mexico is No. 2 for violent crime. It’s little wonder a recent Journal Poll found 69 percent of likely Albuquerque voters consider Albuquerque’s crime rate to be the city’s No. 1 concern.

Back in April, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced that the crime spike and limited funding meant his team would concentrate on prosecuting the most serious repeat offenders or, as he termed them, “the worst of the worst” local criminals. He maintained that focusing on the roughly 20 percent of the criminals who commit 80 percent of the crime would be the best way to reduce crime in the long run. APD Chief Gorden Eden, who is undoubtedly out of a job after a new mayor takes over late next month, has endorsed the strategy.

And now work by the ABQ i-team has produced data that show the worst-of-the-worst approach is on target. During the seven years covered in its study, about 4,700 people were arrested 10 or more times. Although they made up roughly 0.8 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for 20.4 percent of all arrests.

The study looked at more than 127,000 people arrested nearly 312,000 times between Jan. 1, 2010, and the end of 2016. And while most people tend to think of “repeat offenders” as specialists with a long history of a specific type of crime on their rap sheets, that’s not usually the case. Many of Albuquerque’s repeat offenders have been arrested on a wide variety of crimes, ranging from being a public nuisance to larceny. Many have also racked up at least one arrest involving a violent crime, such as assault or domestic violence. Another common denominator, not surprisingly, is drug abuse.

The ABQ i-team, funded for the past three years by Bloomberg Philanthropies, has crunched the data to be used by local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges, city and county leaders and lawmakers. Earlier, it released data detailing the types of crime, where they occurred and where criminals live in the city. The latest release of data is the first part to focus on the demographics of those arrested. More is coming to provide an even clearer picture of who the “worst of the worst” offenders are, what kinds of crimes they commit and, hopefully, the best ways of ending their lawless lifestyles.

These results don’t point fingers, though that’s the politically expedient tactic for some in power to take. And these are not “data tricks,” though that’s what one mayoral candidate called them. These are hard numbers and facts that show not only how lawless Albuquerque has become, but also who made it that way.

The folks in charge – now and in the near future – should take advantage of this knowledge to help turn Albuquerque around. Ignoring it would be a real crime.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.