ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Other than homicides, Albuquerque saw a dip in most crime categories in the first three months of 2018 compared with last year, according to statistics released by the city Tuesday.
The stats represent some good news for the city, which has seen an increase in crime in recent years. That increase helped give New Mexico last year the unwanted distinction of having the highest property crime rate and second-highest violent crime rate per capita among U.S. states.
Automobile burglaries have dropped 31 percent this year, auto theft is down 12 percent and robberies have decreased by 46 percent, according to data on crimes reported to Albuquerque police.
“This is an encouraging trend because it suggests that our crime-fighting strategies are making a difference,” Mayor Tim Keller said at a news conference. “All our crime rates are unacceptably high in the city. But when we see this trend it actually shows that we’re making some progress.”
While encouraging, the data isn’t a clear indicator of how crime is trending in Albuquerque, said Paul Guerin, the director of the Center for Applied Research and Analysis at the University of New Mexico.
“Three months is just not long enough,” he said. “That’s encouraging, but I wouldn’t attribute it to anything the new mayor has done. It’s too little too early.”
Keller said his administration plans to provide the public with quarterly updates on crime in the city. Crime was a major aspect of Keller’s campaign for mayor and polls have shown that public safety is one of the most pressing issues for residents.
Police and city officials said the decrease in crime so far in 2018 is the result of a more proactive police department. Albuquerque interim Police Chief Michael Geier said police officers have increased the number of traffic stops by 71 percent through the first three months of the year. Officers from January through March 2017 made 7,940 traffic stops. They made 13,586 over the same time period this year.
“I think the key is there’s a change in officers’ attitude. The officers … do these traffic stops knowing that criminals are driving cars, have drugs in cars, have guns in cars, have warrants,” Geier said. “If you go back a few months you didn’t see police cars in the street. Now, I’m very encouraged when I see (police) lights flashing. You may not want to see them in your rear-view mirror, but I’m encouraged when I see officers out there contacting citizens.”
Despite a decrease in most crimes, the number of homicides has continued to increase. In 2017, Albuquerque police investigated 12 homicides through the first three months of the year – a year that the city saw a record-high number of murders.
In the first three months of this year, there have been 18 homicides, according to the data.
But Guerin said homicides aren’t considered a strong indicator of the prevalence of crime in an area because they are rare events compared to other types of crime.
The six more homicides in the first quarter of 2018 compared with 2017 mark a 50 percent increase.
Other crimes are much more common. There have been hundreds fewer robberies and more than a thousand fewer burglaries in 2018 compared with last year.
“Homicides are a rare event. Homicides don’t drive (crime) trends,” Guerin said.”Murders, the most serious crime, are just rare. A few murders can really increase the (murder) rate. Three months of murders is a small number comparatively. We need longer trends of data to really understand that.”