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The tide is turning against crime in Albuquerque

APD mounted patrolman Jeremy Bassett stands by Striker in Downtown Albuquerque in May 2016. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

When I ran for mayor of Albuquerque, I knew crime was the biggest challenge facing our city. Nearly a decade of rising crime took a toll and left many feeling unsafe and resigned, like we had lost our city.

On Day One, we took a stand and said this is unacceptable. My administration’s top priority is tackling crime from all sides. While we have a long road ahead, I am grateful to report that we are beginning to see signs of progress.

First, we got our own house in order. We brought on leaders with the experience and integrity to change the culture at the Albuquerque Police Department. Our new Chief of Police Michael Geier and team are committed to a block-by-block approach to constitutional community policing.

With the right leadership in place, APD began strategically tackling crime, empowering its officers to get back to the heart of policing: proactive enforcement like traffic stops and auto theft stings that lead to catching perpetrators of more violent crimes. Officers are connecting with communities on foot, on bicycle and through re-opened substations. We worked with businesses and neighborhoods to create the first permanent Downtown Public Safety District.

Under our administration, we’re committed to keeping the public informed, so we began releasing quarterly crime statistics. Though crime is still unacceptably high, for the first time in years trends are heading in the right direction compared to this time last year:

• Auto theft down 28 percent

• Auto burglary down 35 percent

• Commercial burglary down 18 percent

• Residential burglary down 14 percent

• Robbery down 39 percent

Some violent crimes have gone down but rates are still too high. For example, homicides are down 6 percent from last year, but last year was a record high. Also, our city experiences too many violent crimes tied to firearms, including a 14 percent rise in non-fatal shootings. In response, we doubled the number of homicide detectives and took advantage of gun ballistics tracking. Our police department is committed to taking allegations of sexual assault seriously and clearing the backlog of untested rape kits.

Addressing the underlying causes of crime, including addiction, behavioral health and a lack of opportunity is key for the long term. We have a comprehensive plan to address homelessness that includes maximizing investments in treatment, housing and mental health. We’re keeping kids out of trouble with expanded youth programs, and making parks and playgrounds safer through our SHARP program which properly disposes of used needles discarded in public places. Albuquerque Fire Rescue is stepping up with innovative public health initiatives and proactive prevention efforts.

I personally promised we would own police reform, and we are making significant progress. The latest monitoring report acknowledges the breadth of changes and commitment to finishing the job of meeting DOJ requirements. Our strategies must also reflect the needs and concerns of women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, and we continue to improve our police policies to reflect these perspectives.

All of these steps are bringing quality officers to APD. We have 29 additional officers who came from other departments, with two lateral classes in the pipeline and 34 cadets on track to graduate in December. Reaching our goal of adding 400 officers over the next four years will take all-hands-on-deck recruitment, and finally help is on the way.

The tide is starting to turn, but there is a long journey ahead. To get there it’s going to take all of us working together as One Albuquerque. We need your help and have hundreds of ways you can work to help the city we love. Let’s finish the job together.

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