“It’s unfortunate, but crime is absolutely out of control.”
– Albuquerque Mayoral candidate Tim Keller, August 2017
Then-candidate Keller went on to say crime is the mayor’s responsibility. “It’s the mayor’s job to actually address crime in Albuquerque, and that’s what I want to do as the next mayor,” he said on the campaign trail.
Fast forward to the summer of 2020.
Albuquerque and New Mexico are still knee-deep in a crime problem. While statistics show property crime dropped in Albuquerque last year, crimes against persons increased 1% to 14,971, with both aggravated assault and statutory rape showing significant increases. There were 80 murders in the Duke City last year, the highest number in the city’s history and up from 69 the year before. (That’s close to matching the 87 deaths in Bernalillo County from COVID-19.)
It’s important to note this is a state problem – not just Albuquerque. And it is hurting New Mexico. In the latest example of bad lists with real impact, Yahoo Money this past weekend ranked New Mexico as the fourth worst retirement choice in the United States. The Yahoo index included metrics such as cost of living and property prices and penalized New Mexico severely for crime, calling it “a major deterrent for retirees and the reason it fell in the rankings this year.” Only Nevada, Hawaii and Alaska fared worse in the overall rankings.
Candidate Keller went on to say he wanted to add at least 150 officers toward a goal of 1,000 in the Albuquerque Police Department. And he’s made progress on that front. He’s also talking about shifting some APD resources and redirecting some calls for service to better align responses.
Making the most of public service aides, crime scene technicians, social workers and others makes sense. But any suggestion Albuquerque has crime under control and should “de-fund” its police is ridiculous. We don’t have it under control, and it’s hurting our ability to move forward.
That’s clear from developments in recent weeks where the owners of Garcia’s Kitchen and the Range both cited crime as part of their decision to close locations – and from some of the business comments submitted last week in opposition to two city councilors’ attempt to ram through job-killing worker provisions. Thankfully, the council did not approve the proposals.
The Goodman Realty Group, the developer behind Winrock Town Center, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars here and is engaged in a major new work-live-play project. But Darin Sand, the company’s vice president for development, says the company is looking to take future investments to other states because of such proposed ordinances, crime and a lousy public education system. It makes sense to look to other cities and states “because we see more opportunity.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham dispatched State Police to Albuquerque in force last year after UNM baseball player Jackson Weller was shot and killed in the Nob Hill area. The effort netted 14,674 traffic stops and 738 arrests — most for felony or misdemeanor warrants. Now, in light of the George Floyd killing by a Minneapolis cop, she says such decisions would be viewed through “a different lens.” Meaning what?
Programs from youth recreation to behavioral health can help address the metro area’s crime problem in the long run. They should be pursued. So should efforts to address racism. But the mayor, the governor and other elected leaders need to come to grips with the facts on the ground. By the city’s own account, in addition to 80 murders last year there were 2,796 drug offenses and 709 weapons violations. This is cartel country where one heavily armed drug dealer said he needed his arsenal because this is a “dangerous place.”
Keller was right on the campaign trail when he said addressing crime was priority one. It’s time all our elected leaders step up and make it happen.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.