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Editorial: Homicides are now too routine on too many ABQ streets

As of early Tuesday, the Albuquerque Police Department has investigated 40 homicides already this year. We’re not even a third of the way through the year, and we are halfway to 2019’s record number of people slain in the city.

And that doesn’t take into account homicides in the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County. There have been at least four homicides this year outside city limits but within the county. We say “at least” because the Sheriff’s Office has been slow to report some recent homicides, a disservice to a public that has a right to know how its tax dollars are used and where the latest killing has occurred in its community.

The killings have gotten disturbingly routine. On Sunday, APD officers in the Southeast Area Command found a man shot during a domestic dispute. He later died. A woman is in custody. APD was dispatched Friday afternoon to Locust Place NE where a man had been shot. Officers rendered aid, but he died. An 18-year-old man was charged Tuesday.

On Friday night, Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies responded to Bridge SW, where a man crashed into a yard. Someone in another vehicle had shot him. The victim was taken to a hospital and later died. One man has been charged. Just another weekend in the metro area.

It’s been going on for a while. Back in February, APD was investigating four deaths within 36 hours. In January, there were eight homicides in the city in nine days.

APD and the city recently unveiled initiatives to address the too-routine violence – a 60-day violent crime operation along the Montgomery NE corridor on weekends and expansion of the Southeast Area Command to boost community policing in the International District, where numerous killings have been clustered, to name two.

It’s important Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Harold Medina get all hands on deck if residents are to feel safe.

One of the mayor’s signature efforts is outreach and social workers to address crime. Those have promise and value, and his budget includes funding for that new effort separate from APD’s. The mayor’s budget proposal also calls for an $11 million increase for APD to $223 million, or 31% of total general fund spending.

Part of that extra funding should be targeted at improving APD’s abysmal homicide solve rate, which dropped to about 50% in each of the last two calendar years. When half the killers get away with it, it’s hard to discourage others.

There is no question many factors lead to the increase in homicides, including drugs, domestic violence and robberies. And many entities need to be involved to combat it.

Prosecutors need to make cases as strong as possible when charging such suspects – and charge them with the maximum number of crimes so judges have plenty to work with when making pretrial detention decisions. The judiciary and jails need to use their discretion to keep the “worst of the worst” off our streets. But ultimately, residents are looking to Keller and Medina to provide the leadership necessary to make our city a safe place to live.

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.