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More murders; fewer cases cleared

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

As the number of homicides investigated by Albuquerque police surged in recent years, city records show the clearance rate – the percentage of those solved by arrest – dropped significantly.

That’s far from reassuring to the family of Jacque Vigil and others who don’t want their loved ones’ murders to go unsolved.

Vigil’s husband of 18 years, Sam B. Vigil, praised the Albuquerque Police Department detectives who have investigated his wife’s fatal shooting last Nov. 19. But he lamented there haven’t been more homicide investigators to handle the record number of murders in the city. Last year saw a record number of 82 homicides, compared with 30 in 2014.

“I’m very frustrated, not with the actual detectives working on the case, because I think their plates are so full that it’s ridiculous,” said Vigil. Moreover, Vigil told the Journal, “The (New Mexico) State Police offered help to the violent crimes division, and they refused to get the help.”

“Again, they (APD) are doing as much as they possibly can with very little resources, but to refuse help? There are other victims. It’s just not Jacque,” Vigil said. “There’s a bunch of other cases still open. Jacque was No. 72, but by the end of the year, it had gone to 82. Now it’s 19 more murders after my wife’s, and that’s ridiculous.”

APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told the Journal the homicide unit has 11 detectives and one sergeant compared to five detectives and one sergeant in 2017. He denied State Police assistance had been rejected.

Jacque Vigil’s homicide is being “vigorously” investigated and detectives are following “numerous leads,” Gallegos told the Journal in an email.

APD doesn’t have “collective data” to show how many murders over the years have gone unsolved, Gallegos stated.

As for caseloads, some APD homicide detectives have fewer than 10 cases each. “Others with the most years in homicide may have more than 20, which includes cases that may be three, four or five years old and awaiting new leads,” Gallegos stated.

According to city budget documents, APD’s homicide clearance rate (as reported in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report) hovered around 80% from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2016. The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

But in each of the last two calendar years, the percentage of homicides solved in the city dropped to about 50%, according to APD data. That number reflects homicides that weren’t deemed justifiable.

The overall clearance rate for 2018 and 2019 was somewhat higher because detectives solved nine homicides from prior years.

APD maintains a website showing “Active Homicide Investigations.” But the website lists just 25 cases, which occurred from January 2018 to August 2018. No more recent cases are posted.

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