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Mayberry on the Rio Grande

Sometimes all you need is a “crazy” goat to serve as security in the village of Corrales, which has been named the safest place in the state. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

CORRALES – I have friends in Corrales who don’t lock their doors when they leave the house.

Their security system consists of a doormat that reads “The Neighbors Have Better Stuff” and two vigilant, vocal but decidedly not vicious dogs.

Show up unannounced and unrecognized and you’ll get barked at a lot, but that’s about as far as it goes. No fangs rending flesh.

My friends once had an attack goat named Ethyl-Mae.

Ethyl-Mae, a pygmy goat, was a piece of work. People crossing a certain point on the property – even members of the family – faced the very real possibility of a rude and bruising butting at the horns of Ethyl-Mae.

My friends found out that among the men who delivered hay to their place, their home was known as “the crazy goat house.”

But Ethyl-Mae died a few years ago, so now all that stands between my friends’ unlocked doors and intruders are that doormat and two noisy dogs.

And in Corrales that may be good enough, because, for the second year in a row, Corrales has been named the safest place in New Mexico.

From left, Ken Sanchez, Jeff Barrows and Joseph Gutierrez talk tractors at this year’s annual Running of the Tractors on May 4.

Don’t misunderstand. There’s no magic bubble over Corrales, which, by the way, has been my home for the past 20 years. Things here catch on fire just as they do every other place. People in Corrales fall off ladders, step on nails and get kicked by horses. They get butted by goats, although not so much since Ethyl-Mae passed.

Corrales’ safest city status comes courtesy of the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting program, which shows that Corrales is well below the national average in violent crime and property crime.

Nationally, the numbers are 4.49 violent crimes – murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery – per 1,000 people and 27.11 property crimes – burglary, arson, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft – per 1,000.

Overall, New Mexico is a lot worse with 9.57 violent crimes per 1,000 people and 52.84 property crimes. Albuquerque is worse still with 13.69 violent crimes per 1,000 and 73.66 property crimes.

But Corrales, which I like to think of as Mayberry on the Rio Grande, had only 0.58 violent crimes per 1,000 people and 8.93 property crimes per 1,000.

Volunteers apply mud to the wall outside the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales in 2017. For the second year in a row, the village was named the safest place in N.M.

SafeWise, the company that used the FBI stats to compile the safe city rankings, relied primarily on the violent crime numbers because these are the crimes that make people feel less safe. The property crime figures were used to break ties.

During the survey period, 2017, Corrales, a village of 8,625 people, had five violent crimes – and none of those were murder, rape or robbery.

So why such low crime rates in Corrales? It’s not just that it is small. Belen, population 7,095, is smaller than Corrales but Belen had 20.30 violent crimes per 1,000 people.

In a news release, Corrales Police Chief Victor Mangiacapra attributes the village’s low crime to community-based policing.

“People are quick to report anything suspicious and our officers are quick to respond,” he said. “We would rather go on a hundred false alarms than miss one real incident. This has paid off for us.”

A kazoo band made up of volunteers, including the Corrales Historical Society and the Friends of Corrales Library, performs at the 2018 Corrales Fourth of July Parade. (Steve Knight/Albuquerque Journal)

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I attended a piano recital at the Cottonwood School in Corrales, joining a crowd of proud parents and curious friends in encouraging children from a few years old through high school as they showed what they could do on a keyboard. If I lived anywhere else besides Corrales, I’d probably have been at a sports bar instead.

For about 10 years I walked with a dog I loved – and that tolerated me – in the Corrales Harvest and Fourth of July parades, events in which other participants marching with pets were mostly little kids and music was provided by a community kazoo band. You wouldn’t catch me doing that in any place but Corrales.

Erin Vigil, left, rides Spade and Lilly Sandoval guides Bo while participating in last year’s Corrales Harvest Festival Pet Parade.

Corrales, an old farming village, is tractor shows, the Sunday growers’ market and “mudding day,” during which young and old volunteers, newcomers and natives, put fresh adobe on the wall around the Historic Old San Ysidro Church.

In Corrales, people who have only lived here two months or two decades are made welcome by people whose families have lived here for many generations.

Why is Corrales the safest town in New Mexico? Because it’s Corrales, Mayberry on the Rio Grande. I think just living here makes you a better person, helps you cultivate a good heart.

I lock my doors when I leave home because my mom always said to. But in Corrales, probably all you need is one or two boisterous dogs and a properly worded doormat.

Attack goat optional.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Ollie at 823-3916 or oreed@abqjournal.com.

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