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City survey shows better ‘citizen satisfaction’

Downtown Albuquerque. (Journal file)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque residents are feeling slightly better about their city these days, even if most still think crime is rising and that the city should do more to mitigate financial damage caused by COVID-19.

In a new survey, 59% of Albuquerque residents rated the overall quality of life as good or excellent, up from 54% who said the same two years ago. Only 12% described it as poor or very poor, compared to 16% who gave that assessment in 2018.

And while less than half (48%) agree the city is responsive to community needs, it’s markedly better than 2018 (28%) and 2016 (33%).

The findings come from Albuquerque’s “citizen satisfaction” survey, an assessment that city ordinance requires every year. The city broke the 2020 survey into two parts; the latest results come from the second half, which Research & Polling Inc. conducted in mid-November by interviewing a random sample of 300 adult residents.

Like past years, the survey included several questions about safety, the Albuquerque Police Department and how the city should prioritize spending. The 2020 editions also introduced questions specific to COVID-19.

Most residents (54%) gave the city positive reviews for its handling of the pandemic. At least 60% also agreed that the city did well maintaining service levels and communicating to the public during the pandemic.

However, the majority say that the city should provide more financial assistance to individuals struggling to pay bills and should provide direct payments to businesses harmed by the pandemic. Only 27% agreed the city has done a good job helping businesses during the pandemic, compared with 41% who disagreed.

The city has used some of its $150 million in federal coronavirus relief money for direct assistance, including a $10 million small business grant program and about $2.5 million in emergency aid for households that lost jobs or income but were ineligible for other forms of assistance.

On the crime and public safety front, 84% of respondents reported feeling safe or somewhat safe while outside alone in their neighborhoods during the day and 68% said they feel safe at night.

But most residents also believe crime is on the rise, including 66% who say violent crime specifically is increasing, 61% who say crimes involving guns are up and 56% who think auto thefts are rising.

Based on APD numbers, overall crime is actually trending down. Its most recent data indicate overall crime was down 5% in early 2020 compared with early 2019. However, declines in property crime spurred the improvement, as violent crime barely budged and shootings are up.

“Dealing with crime related issues is a major challenge for city government, not just in actually reducing crime, but communicating to the public what is being done to bring crime down, and also changing perceptions of crime in the city,” according to Research & Polling’s survey report.

Public opinion of APD has waned, the results show.

Fewer than half of those surveyed (48%) agree APD treats citizens respectfully, compared with 51% in 2018 and 58% in 2016. Meanwhile, 37% reported a “great deal” of trust in police officers, down from 42% two years prior. The number who expressed “hardly any” trust climbed to 16% from 10%.

However, APD received better marks from respondents for its work implementing reforms meant to reduce use-of-force and uphold residents’ constitutional rights, with 48% offering positive reviews compared to 40% last year.

Also in the survey:

⋄ More people (36%) think the city is doing a poor job addressing homelessness than doing a good/excellent job (29%), however the disparity had been considerably higher last year.

⋄ 63% support building a “new multipurpose arena” for use by the New Mexico United professional soccer team and other events, while 23% oppose it.

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