APD: Crime down slightly across broad categories

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Overall crime in the city is down slightly – 5% – across all categories in the first six months of 2020, compared with the first half of 2019, according to statistics released by the Albuquerque Police Department on Monday. It has decreased 15% since 2018.

But in some cases, the improvements this year were minuscule. The decreases in violent crime – called crimes against persons in the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System – have decreased by only 21 crimes, or 0.28%, from 2019 to 2020. Over two years it has decreased 4%. There were 7,362 crimes against persons reported in the first six months of 2020 – and there were 152 more in the second quarter than in the first.

Crimes against property – arson, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny, robbery, and more – have decreased 6% from 2019 to 2020, but 19% since 2018, according to APD. There were 24,052 crimes against property reported in the first half of 2020, with about 2,000 more in the first quarter than in the second.

And crimes against society – including animal cruelty, drug offenses, prostitution, weapon law violations and more – have decreased 8% from 2019 to 2020, and 12% from 2018 to 2020. There were a total of 1,644 crimes against society reported in the first half of 2020, with 130 more in the first quarter than in the second.

APD did not immediately release data for specific crime categories. The data was released 2½ months after the midyear mark.

Last year, APD’s midyear crime statistics were later discovered to be overly optimistic – in some cases reporting double-digit percentage drops in crime categories that were later found to have not counted hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of incidents.

This year, APD is releasing its crime statistics using the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, which the FBI will soon require of all police departments for its annual report. This is the third year APD has used NIBRS and officials said they cannot compare pre-2018 to 2018 and later.

After problems with 2019 crime statistics, APD hired Peter Winograd, a retired professor with the University of New Mexico, to oversee an independent review of APD’s data systems. Earlier this year, Winograd said his preliminary review found the department didn’t have an effective and accurate method for tracking crimes committed over time, is using outdated systems to report to the FBI, and didn’t have a way to track missing reports. An APD spokesman said Monday he didn’t know whether Winograd has finished his report.

“We hired more records staff and streamlined our systems to more accurately track police incidents and identify crime trends,” Deputy Chief J.J. Griego said, according to a news release Monday. “Our goal is to continue to be transparent while ensuring accuracy so our officers benefit from crime stats.”

In APD’s news release, acting Police Chief Harold Medina attributed the decrease in crime to the hiring of more officers and the department’s crime-fighting tactics.

Crimes against society – including drug offenses – decreased in the first half of this year compared with last year. Pictured is a water jug full of used needles. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“Our strategy of hiring more officers is bringing steady, hard-won progress,” Medina said, according to the release. “We initially used limited resources to tackle auto theft and robbery, and the additional officers are helping us to expand our crime-fighting efforts. We are in a better position to more aggressively tackle gun violence, which remains a long standing challenge in our community.”

In response to questions about whether the pandemic and subsequent lockdown orders could have resulted in a decrease in crime over the first six months of 2020, Gilbert Gallegos, an APD spokesman, said he could not say for certain. He referenced a survey by the Major Cities Chiefs Association and reiterated that Albuquerque has generally been in step with nationwide violent crime trends this year.

“Rape and robbery were down, but aggravated assault was up slightly,” Gallegos wrote in an email. “The one difference is Albuquerque’s homicide rate was down while most major cities (reported) increases in homicides. However, we have since seen an increase in homicides in the third quarter.”

The Major Cities Chiefs Association survey polled 67 cities throughout the country, including Albuquerque, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and Denver. In Albuquerque, the data shows, there were 6% more aggravated assaults the first six months of 2020 than a year earlier.

Although homicides were down the first six months of the year, they surpassed last year’s pace for a while in the third quarter. There have been 55 homicides this year, compared with 57 by this time last year, according to Journal records. Last year’s count included a quadruple homicide.

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