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Year-to-date homicides up significantly

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque Police Department has investigated 34 homicides this year – almost twice as many as the city had at this point in each of the past two years.

By this time in both 2020 and 2019, there were 19 killings. APD ended up with 77 homicides in 2020 and a record 80 in 2019.

Homicides often ebb and flow during the year, usually spiking in warmer months. But the first four months of 2021 have seen the highest total in the past seven years.

The next highest count was in 2018, when there were 21 homicides by mid-April.

Of the 34 homicides, APD has made an arrest in six cases and filed an arrest warrant for 15-year-old Josef Toney in the double homicide of two women.

APD Chief Harold Medina said not much has changed in the department’s focus on homicides since January, when Medina held a briefing after 14 people were killed in Albuquerque during that month – including two double homicides.

“We’re very concerned. We want to see a reduction, but we also know we’re in the midst of a pandemic, and it’s a real tangible item we’re seeing nationwide that there’s an increase in homicides,” he said. “I would hope that we could be the exception – as a chief I don’t like to see it.”

Medina said the department is trying to be proactive by targeting specific areas, looking to beef up drug and gang units, and trying to prevent those known to be involved in illegal activity from becoming homicide victims or suspects.

He said officers have increased their presence at hotels and apartment complexes, where 14 of this year’s 34 homicides have been committed.

Four happened at a cluster of apartments near Montgomery and Carlisle, and another four at a few motels along Interstate 40, between Juan Tabo and Eubank.

APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said police believe at least nine of the killings at apartments and hotels were drug related, and three involved domestic violence.

Medina said police are planning “first-of-their-kind” operations that target areas – like stretches of Montgomery – that have seen a cluster of violent crimes.

He said a big obstacle is a lack of resources that would allow gang and drug units to tackle criminal activity that often leads to homicide.

Medina said police are also using the Violence Intervention Program to help people who were injured or otherwise involved in prior shootings or violent incidents so they don’t become the victim of a homicide due to their activities.

“When somebody is a victim once,” he said, “there’s a strong probability that they’ll likely be a victim again or an offender.”

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