The Albuquerque Police Department has taken it on the chin. A lot. From botched homicide investigations, to its timid response to the Oñate statue debacle, to infighting leading up to the ouster of chief Michael Geier, and what the monitor overseeing APD reforms describes as an effort on the brink of catastrophic failure, 2020 has been a tough year for APD.
But against that backdrop of problems – most not related to the officers who actually patrol the streets and answer calls – it only seems fair to take a moment to recognize the good police work being done on the dangerous streets of Albuquerque. Work that makes each of us safer.
Since August, APD’s anti-crime operations have netted 508 arrests and recovered 76 guns and 62 stolen vehicles. Interim chief Harold Medina says the operations, which include special unit investigators hitting the streets to make arrests, focus on those wanted on no-bond hold warrants and those who are driving crime.
“When we started these anti-crime operations in the fall we wanted to shift gears from reactive to proactive,” Medina says. “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.”
While shootings are up 18% over last year, there has been a slight reduction in rape, robbery and aggravated assault, with the homicide rate mostly flat.
“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,” says Mayor Tim Keller. “Out of 67 of the largest cities in America, we are one of just two that have actually seen violent crime go down in every category and (stay) flat in homicide.”
So the residents of Albuquerque owe their police department a thank you for taking the criticisms in stride and doubling down on efforts to take violent offenders off the street. And that extends to efforts by officers in the federal violent crimes task force and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.
This is dangerous work. There are plenty of guns in the wrong hands and a willingness to use them. Just last week an FBI agent was shot when knocking on the door of a Northwest Albuquerque apartment to serve a search warrant related to kidnapping threats against a former agent.
Looking for examples to illustrate Medina’s point about repeat offenders? Sheriff’s deputies along with the U.S. Marshals Service recently arrested Sergio Salinas, 22, for failure to comply with conditions of release on charges of robbery with a deadly weapon and possession of a controlled substance. That followed the arrest of Nicholas Gurule, 33, on felony domestic violence charges of aggravated battery against a household member (strangulation), false imprisonment and intimidation of a witness. Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said Gurule had been arrested 14 times by BCSO since 2007 on a variety of charges including domestic violence, DWI and violation of probation and conditions of release.
“Law enforcement continues to arrest the same criminals time and time again,” Gonzales says. “These criminals are repeat offenders and contribute to the crime crisis in Albuquerque.”
It’s a given that policing must be constitutional and community-based. It’s also a given that officers face a tough challenge dealing with a significant and violent criminal element here. For that, we owe them our thanks and recognition for the good work they do.
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.