Editorial: A picture-perfect reason ABQ crime is just out of control

The commercial burglary at Kim Jew Photography last week provides some insight, on two counts, into why it sometimes feels like we live in a city where law and order are hanging by a thread.

First, there is the all-too-typical reaction by Albuquerque police to property crimes – they don’t really get worked up much about somebody breaking into your house, your car or your place of business and stealing your stuff. Call it the “file a report” syndrome. Second, there is the familiar storyline on the suspect – someone who has offended over and over again with seemingly little consequence.

Kim Jew, of course, is a well-known photographer whose portraits grace the walls of offices and homes. Over the past 45 years, his studios have visually chronicled a range of subjects, from the rich and famous, to touching family holiday portraits, to weddings, baptisms and graduations.

And he’s a responsible businessman who has installed security cameras. So he had the video evidence Monday, April 5, after a man broke into his studio on Eubank NE and carried off money, $6,000 worth of camera equipment and priceless memory cards of people he had photographed.

“We got the guy, here he is, so go get him,” Jew said.

People who recognized the suspect contacted Albuquerque Crime Stoppers. “We got the name, address and a license plate of a car in front of his house,” Jew said.

Slam dunk, right? Moving quickly enough might even head off the suspect fencing the stolen Canon cameras, lenses and strobe light and recover the memory cards, many of which came from Easter photo sessions.

As of Wednesday, Jew said he had not been informed of any arrests in the case.

When Jew tried to contact the APD officers who took the report to give them additional information, he was told they were off. He had no way to contact them except through an email. One finally contacted him last Thursday. Meanwhile, APD says the case has been turned over to an impact team. How, you ask, if APD is serious about property crime, had nothing happened all week in a case served up on a platter?

Then there is the history of the suspect, who is identified in the crisp video.

In November 2019, he was charged with criminal damage to property after a neighbor said she saw him shatter her vehicle’s rear window with a baseball bat and flee on a bike. That charge was dismissed when the officer failed to show up in court. That same year, he was charged with what his attorney called a “joyride” in a next-door neighbor’s car; dismissed for “insufficient evidence.”

The man, whose public defender in an earlier case said he had a history of substance abuse, earlier was charged with reckless driving after an officer said he was speeding through numerous stop signs and a red light in heavy traffic. That’s not bad driving; it’s dangerous behavior that thankfully didn’t result in injury or death to innocent motorists or pedestrians. The case was dismissed when the officer failed to appear in court.

The list could go on – a couple of DWI convictions and three domestic violence-related arrests, the first two dismissed and the third from February currently pending. A warrant issued for his arrest for failure to appear in court was “active” when he kicked in a glass pane and hauled off Kim Jew’s cameras.

APD is still short-handed and operating under a difficult oversight agreement. Substance abuse does drive crime. But that doesn’t change the bottom line. When Tim Keller campaigned for mayor, he said crime was issue No. 1. and it is the mayor’s job to get it under control. And while violent crime is up, APD Chief Harold Medina says property crime has fallen.

But you couldn’t prove it by the Kim Jew break-in, APD’s response and the repeated police no-shows in cases involving this suspect. If we really want to get a handle on crime, APD and the criminal justice system need to do a whole lot better.

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.

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