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Duke City crime rate inches up

 

Crimes reported to police in Albuquerque were up about 5 percent in 2012, according to figures provided by the city, largely because of a second consecutive increase in property crimes.

The crime rate, which takes population growth into account, was also up — from 5,771 per 100,000 in 2011 to 6,048 per 100,000 in 2012.

It was the second consecutive year that major crimes rose in the city, after a decrease in the number of crimes reported in 2010.

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However, Mayor Richard Berry and his aides point out that Albuquerque’s crime rate is still down from when he took office at the end of 2009, when it was 6,260 per 100,000 population.

“The fact is that since I have been in office, we have driven the … crime rate for Albuquerque to the lowest three years in the past two decades — and that’s good news,” Berry said in a written statement Wednesday.

Reducing property crimes in Albuquerque was among the most visible of Berry’s campaign platform planks when he was running for mayor. It has continued to be a top priority for Berry since he took office.

Last week, the mayor announced several new initiatives to combat property crimes, including posting stolen car information on electronic signs throughout the city, using APD’s new camera and data system to find stolen cars and a community campaign in which APD officers will place business cards on the doors of unlocked cars reminding their owners to lock up next time.

“Although these (statistics) show a slight increase in property crime, it still shows that APD has been successful at making this city a bad place to be a criminal,” Berry said in a news release last week. “I am proud of the work of every man and woman in uniform who has helped keep these numbers this low.”

Property crimes — burglary, larceny and auto theft — in 2012 were 2 percent higher than in 2009, when Berry took office. Violent crimes — murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — were higher by 1.7 percent in 2012. Property crimes make up a much larger share of crimes.

However, Berry pointed out in his statement that there have been fewer major crimes committed in each category during his three years in office than during the three years before he became mayor.

A closer look at the year-over-year numbers shows that, overall, major crimes reported in Albuquerque dropped nearly 8 percent in 2010, the mayor’s first full year in office.

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The decrease continued a trend in which crime steadily dropped in the city after peaking in 1996. The reductions mirrored national patterns on crime as many cities adopted the “broken windows theory,” which essentially states that when law enforcement focuses on lesser crimes, escalation into more serious criminal conduct is less likely.

Studies have both supported and criticized the theory, which has been a hallmark of Police Chief’s Ray Schultz’s eight years at the helm of APD.

After the decrease in 2010, major crimes reported rose about 5 percent in 2011. That increase was driven by a spike in property crimes, while violent crimes reported went down slightly.

The same happened in 2012: Property crimes were up about 6 percent, and violent crimes dipped by about 1 percent.

Schultz has said in multiple interviews and emails that, as the reported crime numbers have gone up the past two years, so has the number of arrests his officers are making.

For example: The number of residential burglary arrests has increased by 137 percent since 2009, according to the city. Auto theft arrests were up by 178 percent in that time period, and arrests for commercial burglary increased by 66 percent.

“If crime were up and my arrests were down, then I’d be concerned,” the chief said in a January interview.

In an email to the Journal this week, Schultz said that nearly two-thirds of the people arrested for property crimes have previously been arrested on similar charges.

“This is where we are going to continue to target our strategies over the next year,” his email said. “While it is frustrating that criminals continue to victimize too many residents of the city, we will not reduce our resolve to continue and aggressively hold them accountable for their actions.”

In his statement to the Journal on Wednesday, Berry echoed Schultz in pointing out the increase in property crime arrests and the problem posed to police by repeat offenders.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal


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