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Albuquerque falls from top auto theft spot

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque has been dethroned from the No. 1 spot for auto theft after three years running.

That title now goes to Bakersfield, California, as the Albuquerque metro area falls to second place nationwide for having the most vehicles stolen per capita, according to a recently released report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Since 2016, when there were 10,011 auto thefts, the NICB has ranked the metro area – which includes Bernalillo, Valencia, Sandoval and Torrance counties – as the worst in the country. The numbers have gone down, slowly, until a nearly 11% decrease last year – from 7,146 to 6,399 – dropped Albuquerque out of the top ranking.

“This dubious distinction has been a sore spot for Albuquerque, so we’re actually glad that we finally climbed out of the number one ranking for the first time in years,” Mayor Tim Keller said. “While it shows just how deep the hole is that we’re working to get out of, this progress is a result of the hard work of officers to cut auto theft by over a third (over the past two years). We clearly still have challenges, but hopefully residents will continue to see the positive changes.”

The distinction of worst in the nation in auto thefts plagued the city as Albuquerque had high levels – across the board – of property and violent crime. More recently, those crime rates began to fall in many categories.

However, a snafu in the Albuquerque Police Department records division, in the form of hundreds and sometimes thousands of undercounted incidents, revealed that crime had not fallen as much as local leaders were advertising. Initially, in July 2019, auto theft was said to have dropped 39% in the first six months of the year. After the issue was discovered, and corrected, it was determined that it had fallen only 22%.

Still, it was enough to get Albuquerque off the NICB’s worst-in-the-nation spot.

“We are driving down auto theft through aggressive enforcement,” APD Chief Mike Geier said. “We are also seeing a lot of success with our new helicopter, which has assisted field units so they avoid dangerous pursuits and track stolen vehicles more effectively and safely.”

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