Mayor rolls out crime-fighting legislative priorities

Flanked by police department officials, state legislators and City Councilor Cynthia Borrego, Mayor Tim Keller signs a resolution outlining the city’s legislative priorities. (Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

For years the Albuquerque Police Department has been putting a band aid on the outdated record management system that keeps track of all reports.

Its Real Time Crime Center doesn’t really operate in real time.

And the city doesn’t have modern technology like a gunshot detection system, an automated license plate reader or the capability to tap into public cameras on the fly.

Mayor Tim Keller laid out this litany of issues with APD’s crime-fighting tools as he rolled out the city’s 2020 legislative priorities at a news conference Monday afternoon. The city will ask for $20 million to modernize the police department’s equipment as well as $10 million to fund its violence intervention programs statewide — $2 million of which would go to Albuquerque.

Last week the city released new mid-year crime statistics that showed the dramatic decreases across all categories weren’t nearly as significant as initially reported. For instance, commercial burglaries decreased 3%, rather 27%, when you compare the first half of 2018 to the first half of 2019.

Keller referenced the flawed data and said that it came, in part, from compiling records from “four digital folders that somebody has to go organize.” He said the flaws also came from the records department being short staffed until last month.

“Our department is a decade behind in modernizing all of the tools we use with respect to integrating crime fighting with other organizations,” he said. “We have essentially been piecemealing databases, one-off projects for 10 years. As a result we actually have a system now behind the scenes at APD that is probably worse than a paper-based system.”

APD hopes a new computer-aided dispatch and records management system will address the data collection issues as well as make it easier for officers to investigate crimes as they occur. Then, Keller said, the department will be able to present better cases for prosecutors to take to trial.

Keller said he recognizes this is a significant ask from the Legislature but he believes putting this money towards Albuquerque’s problems will benefit the state overall.

“The whole state — mostly — uses our hospitals, uses our higher education system, and unfortunately of course it’s where most of our crime is,” Keller said. “Everyone uses our airports and goes to our malls. The blessing and the responsibility that our city has is that of the economic and population capital of New Mexico. Right now we need some help and it is going to help, I believe, lift up the rest of the state.”

He said the city is committed to matching the funds it receives from the state, either through general obligation bonds that the voters have already voted on or through money that the City Council has already set aside.

However, Keller said if the Legislature does provide the funding, it will be years before the department is fully modernized.

“This is something that is going to be a long road no matter what,” he said. “There’s no quick fix to the challenges that we’re facing right now.”

In spring of 2018, the city increased the gross receipt tax rate, stipulating that at least 60% of the revenue must used for public safety needs. Keller said this money went toward operational costs, such as hiring 100 new officers, and the money he is asking for from the Legislature will not be used for that.

“It’s all one-time funding, and that is strategically appropriate because the big surpluses at the state level are in one-time funding,” he said. “So we’re not asking the state in a big way to help with our operating budget because we took on that responsibility ourselves literally as taxpayers and citizens.”

The city is also asking for $14 million for the Gateway Center for Behavioral Health homeless shelter, $22 million to widen Paseo del Norte on the West Side, $1.5 million to improve school crosswalks and money to fund several other projects. It also hopes to commission a study to determine where a potential stadium could be placed to house the New Mexico United soccer team.

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