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APD’s anti-crime operations make over 500 arrests

Albuquerque Police Department officers investigate a shooting in the city’s southwest area in early November. Shootings have decreased in recent months, but are still above where they were at this time last year. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Since August, the Albuquerque Police Department’s anti-crime operations have netted 508 arrests, and recovered 76 guns and 62 stolen vehicles.

The operations – which include special unit investigators hitting the streets to arrest people – focus on those who are wanted on no bond hold warrants and those who are driving crime, said interim police Chief Harold Medina during a virtual briefing Thursday. APD officers working in other capacities have made additional arrests.

“When we started these anti-crime operations in the fall, we wanted to shift gears from reactive to proactive,” Medina said. “One of the things we recognize in crime that’s occurring in the city is … it seems like every time we arrest someone for a violent crime, that individual had a warrant out for their arrest when we took that individual into custody.”

In October, when the Metropolitan Detention Center was experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19, jail officials asked the police to use discretion on who they arrested. Medina said the department took that into account for low-level offenders, but will continue to arrest those he says are driving violence.

“We were willing, and we are listening on these low-level crimes,” Medina said. “But some of these serious repeat offenders are not going to get a pass because of COVID in the jail.”

In the meantime, the jail’s outbreak seems to have ebbed. A spokeswoman said Thursday they had four inmates and 11 staff with the virus.

Shootings, which have remained persistently high over the past several years, are still above where they were this time last year.

But Medina said there are some encouraging signs that the anti-crime operations – and the city’s other measures, such as the Violence Intervention Program that was rolled out earlier this year – are having an effect.

In August, shootings resulting in injury or death – which Medina termed “bullet to skin” – were 33% above where they were at the same time last year. Now, with a total of 290 shootings (including non-fatal shootings, homicides and accidental shootings), they are 18% above where they were this time last year, meaning there has been a reduction over the past couple of months.

While shootings have increased this year, other violent crime categories decreased – at least through the end of September when the data was collected. According to a report from the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a tally of 67 cities from across the United States showed there were quite a bit more homicides and aggravated assaults in the first nine months of 2020 compared with the same time period in 2019.

Albuquerque, on the other hand, reported slight dips in all four violent crime categories: homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

“We know we have our problems, we know violent crime is far too high, but we are in a much better place than some other cities in our country,” Mayor Tim Keller said, citing the Major Cities Chiefs Association report. “Out of 67 of the largest cities in America, we are one of just two cities that have actually seen violent crime go down in every category and flat in homicide.”

The other city is Baltimore, which has also been plagued by high crime.

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