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SFPD focuses on downtown from bikes

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe police will enter the second phase of its effort to crack down on crime in the downtown area on bikes.

The city announced in a news release Thursday that three full-time bicycle officers will begin patrolling the area surrounding the city’s historic Plaza and nearby Railyard district on Saturday as part of what’s being called “Operation: Downtown Focus.”

Three full-time bicycle officers, a police sergeant and two public safety aids will make up a team that “will be serving in a high visibility capacity on bike and on foot” and enforce a zero tolerance policy for criminal activity, according to the release. A fourth bicycle officer will be added March 7, SFPD Capt. Matthew Champlin said.

Over the next six months, the bicycle unit will patrol downtown business districts and parks and meet with community and business partners in an effort to reduce a spike in crime.

“The Santa Fe Police Department encourages the ‘See something, Say Something’ mentality for our citizens and business partners in the community, and believes that together we can ensure that our City is an even safer place to live, work, visit and play,” according to the release.

Earlier this month local business owners and city officials held two public meetings to discuss concerns in light of recent robberies and other low-level crimes that have occurred in the downtown area of the renowned tourist town, where art galleries, retail shops, bars and restaurants are concentrated. Business owners said the police needed to do more to protect the part of town that is the economic driver for the city.

The first phase of the operation took place from Jan. 27 to Feb. 9. During that two-week period police officers collected and compiled data from more than 100 businesses and responded to 52 calls for service. That data will be used to determine the most effective way to deploy resources during the second phase of the operation.

Police also compiled data from past years in the downtown and Railyard areas that show an uptick in the types of calls for service across nearly all categories from 2018 to 2019. Disorderly conduct calls increased from 1,158 in 2018 to 1,219 in 2019, though those numbers were lower than what was recorded in 2016 and 2017. Business alarms reached a four-year high, with police responding to 587 calls in 2019. Welfare checks were also at a high in 2019, with officers conducting 384 of those in the area last year.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the number of police officers that will make up the bicycle unit.

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