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Just days after a teenager died following a house party shooting, three Albuquerque city councilors announced a proposal to pump new money into the city’s “party patrol” program – though Mayor Tim Keller’s administration made it clear late Thursday it will not duplicate that old strategy.
Councilors Trudy Jones, Ken Sanchez and Brad Winter are proposing $150,000 “to provide funding for the party patrol program” – something Winter said effectively curbed local youth violence during its first run in the early 2000s.
Through the Albuquerque Police Department program, officers worked special overtime shifts specifically to answer party calls. They would issue citations to underage partiers and call their parents.
“I’ve been asking a long time if we’re going to start this program again, because it did make a difference,” Winter said. “I could remember when I was an assistant principal in high school during (its first run), and (students would) talk about parties and they’d say ‘I’m not going to that party because the party patrol will be there.’
“The awareness was out there, and I think that helped a lot.”
Winter said Thursday afternoon he was uncertain exactly how APD would run the program, including whether it would issue citations to those found drinking under age 21. He said Keller’s administration, including police and attorneys, would have to determine the details and that it might go by a different name.
“I think the administration needs to look at what part of it worked and didn’t work (in the past) and adjust it,” he said.
Keller’s office late Thursday announced plans for what it’s calling a “Youth Violence Intervention” strategy that incorporates police and social service providers, saying in a release it “is not the same as APD’s former ‘Party Patrol.’ ”
“To be clear, we are not bringing back the same ‘Party Patrol’ of the past that mainly targeted teen drinking, but rather working with the community on teen violence intervention,” Police Chief Mike Geier said in a statement.
On Sunday, 17-year-old Sandia High School senior Sean Markey died following a shooting at a high school homecoming party.
An APD spokesman said he did not know how many teenagers have been shot during parties this year, but “we have identified 20 shooting incidents tied to house parties.”
Keller’s office released few details on his plan, saying those would come in the next few weeks. The strategy would include supporting diversion programs for young offenders, programs that “build relationships between youth and first responders,” according to a news release.
APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said earlier this week the department is moving toward holding homeowners “accountable” for providing alcohol to minors.
Matt Ross, a Keller spokesman, said the administration will “be glad to work with the City Council to iron out the details of the program” moving forward.
Winter said the party patrol reduced teen violence in the past, but said he did not have the specific data.
Winter, who introduced the original party patrol legislation nearly 20 years ago, said it won national awards and was well-known among teenagers.
But it drew controversy, too.
A federal judge in 2007 ruled that party patrol officers who entered a home without a search warrant had violated the owner’s constitutional rights.
Some critics objected to an early practice of citing all underage kids at a party, regardless of whether they were in possession of alcohol, which the city eventually stopped.
George Luján, the executive director of the SouthWest Organizing Project, said he has concerns about party patrols, and about officers arresting and citing teenagers.
“I would say that that would fall under the category of a recycled, failed idea that we tried before and it didn’t work,” Luján said. “I think a lot of us are worried about our kids and the safety of young people. But we have to be sure that we don’t fall into these traps where, in the pursuit of safety, we do more harm than good.”
He said his organization is talking with families, young people and community members about the party patrol and what their next steps should be.
The City Council is expected to vote on the $150,000 party patrol allocation later this month.
Journal Staff Writer Elise Kaplan contributed to this report.