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Editorial: Silver linings in news of ABQ’s seedy underbelly

The June 27 Journal article about an East Central motel of ill repute – a brothel of sorts where women described being abused, locked away from their possessions and even beaten for not meeting earning quotas – packed quite a punch.

The story by Journal reporter Matthew Reisen cast the Best Choice Inn near Central and Louisiana SE as a crime-ridden hellhole replete with sex trafficking, drug trade and, federal law enforcement agents say, money laundering. Three men, including the motel manager, were ultimately arrested on federal charges.

Grim stuff. In all that darkness, though, are a few rays of light.

First, the fact the investigation that led to the June 18 raid occurred at all is good news. The Drug Enforcement Administration happened upon the sex trafficking activities at the Best Choice Inn during a drug inquiry last year. Agents took notice and passed the information along to the Department of Homeland Security, which conducted a months-long investigation and led the raid, helped by local and state law enforcement agents.

Kudos to the various authorities that paid attention, took note, shared information and worked collaboratively to make these arrests.

Another silver lining in the story: According to information provided to agents by a woman working out of the motel, the Best Choice Inn was the only choice inn.

“The other motels along (Central) have banned the prostitutes from staying at them, and the Best Choice is the only one that will rent to them,” according to the story.

As with any major metro area, a seedy underbelly lives on, but this case is an indication this type of violent and harmful crime can be curbed.

It’s not the only good news/bad news we’ve had in recent days. A June 26 Journal story noted that the number of car thefts reported in Albuquerque dropped 27% between 2017 and 2018 – unfortunately we’re still the No. 1 city for car thefts per capita in the U.S. Not the city’s proudest talking point, perhaps, but a 27% drop is a positive trajectory. So are the mid-year crime statistics released Monday by Mayor Tim Keller’s office that show drops in all categories of crime compared to the same time period last year. Among the year-to-date stats: Homicides are down 18%; aggravated assaults down 33%, robberies down 32%, rapes down 29%, auto thefts down 39%, auto burglaries down 38% and shootings with injury down 8%.

The implementation this spring of an Albuquerque-centric, FBI-led task force with state and local police partners to target repeat violent offenders is also welcome news. According to a June 30 story, 40 people had been arrested and 58 guns seized since the task force was approved April 1.

“One of the biggest challenges is to mitigate violent crime and arrest those repeat offenders who are terrorizing our community,” Special Agent in Charge James C. Langenberg told Journal reporter Colleen Heild, adding that the task force and its partners provide “a laser focus on specific individuals to be picked up and prosecuted for their crimes.”

It’s worth noting that federal court has tougher pre-prosecution and sentencing rules than state court, meaning repeat offenders have a harder time finding their way back to the streets quickly.

Albuquerque is still a city of much crime, and work is to be done. But we do know that, in the world of crime-fighting, we’re making progress.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.