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City closer to getting gun intelligence lab

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

In efforts to combat a high rate of gun violence in the city, Albuquerque police announced plans Friday to create a Crime Gun Intelligence Center.

The center, which will be located in the police department’s crime lab, will have analysts and equipment that will test guns and bullet casings to learn their unique characteristics, such as markings on a bullet that has been fired from a particular gun. That information will go into a database that will allow police to connect guns and ammo to other crimes.

“We’re hoping that this, especially in cases where gang members are using guns, will help us link all those cases together so we can build bigger cases,” Deputy Chief Harold Medina said at the news conference.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said the city will pay for the center with a $450,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, which is part of the Department of Justice. He said the city received about half the money that it had requested and the city plans to ask the Legislature to contribute additional money to the project.

Mayor Tim Keller talks about the crime stats for the city of Albuquerque. Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

The grant says that within two years Albuquerque will have an Electronic Gunshot Detection System. Those systems are placed at locations around the city and direct police to a specific location if there is a gunshot within a square mile or farther. That allows police to respond more quickly to shootings and hopefully find shell casings or catch suspects, which could result in fewer gun crimes, according to the project description on the grant notification.

Police have said most gun crimes are committed by and against people who are involved in drugs and gangs, in addition to domestic violence cases.

Medina said the intent of the gun intelligence center is to allow police to better connect particular guns to multiple crimes throughout the city. That, Medina said, might allow police to better target criminal networks, like gangs.

“There is more than one way guns are impacting the community. We know there’s a nexus to domestic violence … and we know there are gang members using guns,” Medina said. “We’re hoping that (the Crime Gun Intelligence Center), especially in cases where gang members are using guns, will help us link all those cases together so we can build bigger cases.”

The new center was announced during a press conference where Keller also gave a quarterly update on city crime statistics, this time covering the first nine months of 2018.

The good news, Keller said, is that the city is seeing a decrease in most crimes.

“The unfortunate news for everyone is that when it comes to violent crime we still have, of course, lots of challenges, and the progress there has been much, much slower,” Keller said. “This is the really hard stuff. It’s going to take years. It is going to be a long road to fix this.”

Non-fatal shootings are the only major crime that increased this year compared to last. There have were 377 non-fatal shootings through the end of September compared with 331 in the same time last year, so that crime has ticked up 14 percent.

Homicide statistics have changed little since 2017, when the city saw a record-number of murders. There were 54 homicides through the first nine months of the year, compared to 57 last year.

Last month, police officials said that nearly 80 percent of the city’s homicides were committed with a firearm.

There were 760 fewer robberies in the first nine months of 2018 compared to the same nine months in 2017, a 34 percent decrease. Likewise, there were 1,653 fewer automobile thefts so far this year compared to last, according to the most recent crime statistics. That’s a 28 percent decrease.

Auto burglary – when a thief breaks into a car to steal items out of it – is down 27 percent. There were 9,848 reported cases in the first nine months of 2017 and 7,181 this year.

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