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Commercial burglaries increase; other crimes decrease

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Albuquerque police officers and SWAT team members enter a smoke shop near Atrisco and Central after a burglar tripped the alarm. The smoke shop had been ordered to close after the governor instructed non-essential businesses to shut down until further notice. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Commercial burglaries are up, while residential and auto burglaries are down.

Those are the most significant crime trends the Albuquerque Police Department has identified during the first month of coronavirus in New Mexico as public health orders have shut businesses and kept people at home around the state.

“Common sense would tell you more people are at home, and so we’re less likely to see people break into homes,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. “Then, conversely, a lot of businesses are closed. We hear it anecdotally but also expect to see more thieves targeting those businesses.”

Gallegos said officers are patrolling certain areas more and focusing on businesses such as gun stores and liquor stores that they expect to be targets. He said the department has also moved detectives around to investigate commercial burglaries.

Data released by APD on Thursday shows there have been 42 to 53 calls for service about commercial burglaries each week since the city and state began taking steps to stem the spread of the coronavirus. That compares with 22 to 35 calls a week during the same time period last year.

While thieves are breaking into closed shops, they’re not breaking into as many homes, the data shows. Over the past five weeks, officers have been called to 37 to 58 residential burglaries each week, compared with last year, when they were called to 60 to 98 residential burglaries a week in the same period.

Auto burglaries also decreased, from 138 the week of the first reported coronavirus case in New Mexico to 85 last week. Last year, there were 94 to 139 calls about auto burglaries each week.

“A high number of these in general occur at commercial establishments such as movie theaters, gyms, and whatnot,” APD Deputy Chief J.J. Griego said at a press briefing Thursday. “It may reflect that those businesses are closed and that’s why we’re seeing a decrease.”

Other crime categories, including family disputes, aggravated assault and battery and disturbances, have stayed relatively constant. Overall, there have been slightly fewer of all calls for service over the past couple of weeks than previously.

As for homicides, Griego said there have been fewer in the past 28 days. Gallegos said there have been fewer nonfatal shootings as well.

Analyzing crime trends based purely on calls for service can be tricky because, for example, a call classified as a disturbance can be anything from trespassing to an argument and may receive a different designation as officers respond and write a report. Family disputes range from verbal arguments to serious domestic violence incidents.

However, Gallegos said the calls at least give the department a basis to compare what they are responding to this year, compared with last year, and identify any trends.

“Down the road, we can look at that actual final call and arrest record and get a better analysis of what happened during this time period,” Gallegos said.

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