The news is not all bad.
So far this year auto thefts and other property crimes have seen a significant decline while homicide is on pace to break records for the second year in a row, according to statistics released by the Albuquerque Police Department.
The results, from Jan. 1 through June 30, show a significant drop in property crime: Auto burglary went down 31 percent, auto theft 16 percent, commercial burglary 16 percent, and residential burglary 6 percent.
“This is a long road ahead, but a small part of that is being straightforward with the statistics that come out each quarter,” said Mayor Tim Keller, flanked by the heads of the Albuquerque Police Department, in Civic Plaza on Wednesday afternoon. “We’re going to highlight our improvements and we’re also going to highlight our challenges.”
The results, from Jan. 1 through June 30 show a drop in property crime: Auto burglary went down 31 percent, auto theft 16 percent, commercial burglary 16 percent, and residential burglary 6 percent.
Keller said the drop in auto theft is one of the “most encouraging trends,” while noting the rate of auto theft is still “unacceptably high.”
Last week the National Crime Insurance Bureau ranked the Albuquerque area as the worst in the country for auto theft in 2017, the city was awarded the same title in 2016.
Not all of APD’s findings are so encouraging however, as the most violent crimes continued to climb with homicides up 18 percent and nonfatal shootings up 5 percent. Last year the city broke a twenty-year record with 75 homicides.
Other violent crime bucked the hike – robbery dropped 31 percent, aggravated assault fell 5 percent and rape dropped 4 percent.
Keller called the current crime-fighting approach a “strategic difference” from the past administration.
“I don’t want to get into pros and cons, but clearly things weren’t working before,” Keller said.
While touching on violent crime, Keller spoke at length of APD and his administration’s focus on auto theft: ramping up the use of bait cars, upping traffic stops by 35 percent and treating stolen vehicles as the “currency of crime” used to commit more serious offenses.
Despite all the emphasis on the results, compiled through the Police Report Records System, APD Deputy Chief Harold Medina said the numbers are not foolproof.
“When a crime is committed, the crime isn’t official until a police report is generated,” he said. “Sometimes reports get rejected so they are not put into the system. If a report hasn’t been completed, it’s not counted – that’s one of the obstacles we know is there.”
The University of New Mexico’s director of the Center for Applied Research, Paul Guerin, said that although there is no doubt that crime is down in 2018, it’s “premature” to give credit to the efforts of police.
He said crime is very complex and is affected by more than just law enforcement.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “Whether that’s a trend or not is questionable.”
Guerin said if you look at crime over a long period, you see “blips” where crime has gone down or up.
“We just don’t know yet whether it’s another blip or whether it continues to go down,” he said.
Keller said that in the past six months APD and the auto theft unit have recovered 2,000 vehicles and made 394 theft arrests – including 24 bait car arrests.
Neither Keller nor APD could provide numbers on total arrests in the past six months nor numbers for stolen guns recovered after the department announced earlier this year that more than 1,000 guns were reported stolen out of cars between 2016 and 2018.