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ABQ violent crime rates are up

Harold Medina

Harold Medina

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

In 2020, you were less likely to get your car burglarized but more likely to get beaten or shot than in 2019, according to crime statistics released Wednesday by the Albuquerque Police Department.

2020 saw the same 7% decrease in overall crime – driven largely by the same 10% decrease in property crime – as seen in 2019.

But there was also an increase in violent crime last year.

APD Interim Chief Harold Medina said initial speculation that the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to large drops in all categories of crime, particularly property crime, were misleading.

“If these individuals are committing such serious crime as auto theft and burglary I don’t think they’re going to follow the public health order and stay home,” he said, adding that in the end, the virus led to increases in some crimes but had “no impact at all” on others.

A chart shows the changes in crime statistics over the past three years. (Cathryn Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal)

This marks the third year APD has compiled crime statistics using the National Incident-Based Reporting System, which allows for a more detailed cataloguing of specific crimes within each category.

Between 2019 and 2020, crimes against property saw a 10% decrease, crimes against persons saw a 2% increase and crimes against society saw a 4% increase, largely due to a 61% jump in weapons offenses.

Medina said even though resident surveys and social media give the notion that property crime and auto theft are “on the rise” around Albuquerque, that’s just not the case.

“At times the community doesn’t recognize those decreases … because the numbers were so high to begin with,” he said.

Among property crimes, robbery, larceny and burglary saw the biggest decreases with 17%, 13% and 12%, respectively. Auto theft – a sore spot for the city – dropped 8% in 2020.

In 2019, auto theft dropped 17% and the Albuquerque-area went from being classified as the worst in the nation, where it had been since 2016, to second place.

A National Insurance Crime Bureau study found a more than 9% increase in auto theft nationwide in 2020 but the organization has yet to release an annual report on city rankings.

Medina said property crime may affect the largest portion of the community, but violent crime has the highest impact to individuals and families.

In the violent crime category, aggravated assaults, like shootings and stabbings, saw a 4% increase – the same as in 2019 – and simple assault saw a 4% rise. Sex offenses, which saw a 7% drop in 2019, recorded a 19% decrease last year.

In 2019, violent crime increased 1% as the city reached its highest homicide total in recent history with 80 killings and Bernalillo County recorded 241 shootings. With a 2% increase in violent crime, 2020 fell just shy of that homicide count but still saw the second-highest with 76 and Bernalillo County saw 292 shootings.

Another concern, according to APD, is the use of firearms as the percentage of homicides committed with a gun jumped from 69% in 2019 to 78% in 2020.

In crimes against society, which covers everything from weapons and drug offenses to animal cruelty and prostitution, there was a 61% spike in weapons law violations last year and a 9% drop in drug offenses. In 2019, weapons law violations, which include the illegal use, possession and sale of firearms, recorded a 19% increase and an 11% rise in drug offenses.

Medina said Albuquerque’s crime problem is multi-faceted and not something APD “can solve alone.” It will need the help of community partners to address the root causes of crime like drug abuse.

“We can keep arresting individuals over and over, but if we’re not correcting the behavior … it’s a never-ending vicious cycle that ultimately the community pays a price for,” he said.

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