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APD details homicide trends and plans to improve casework

People respond to the scene of a April 11 homicide after Albuquerque police said a deceased man was found in an alley near Wyoming and Constitution NE. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque Police Department detailed homicide trends on Friday and outlined plans to tackle killings across the city in what is shaping up to be a record-breaking year.

So far this year, there have been 42 homicides across the city, including two double homicides, with an arrest made or charges filed in 10 cases – around 25%. By this time last year and in 2019, there had been 21 and 28 homicides, respectively.

Kyle Hartsock, new deputy commander of APD’s Criminal Investigative Division, took the lead on the briefing to talk about what the department is seeing in terms of locations, motives, weapons and victim behavior.

APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said Hartsock – who previously headed the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Crime Strategies Unit – was brought on to bring “a fresh perspective into (APD’s) investigative processes.”

Hartsock said at least 10 homicides have happened at hotels, a number that is “absolutely on the rise.” In half of those cases, it is the victim’s hotel room and the other half it is a third party. Another seven homicides have occurred at apartments.

Hartsock said the location analysis allows police to patrol hot spots and meet with hotel owners to discuss how they can deter the violence.

The data shows that 18 homicides have been tied to robberies, seven to domestic violence and five to “individual disrespect.” Of the 42 homicides, 28 were committed with a gun and six with a knife or blade.

The data shows that nine of those killed were selling drugs, seven were in a domestic argument, six were homeless and three were buying drugs.

Hartsock said they compile data on “victim behavior” to see if any services can be offered to higher-risk communities to curb the chance that someone might become the next victim or suspect.

He said the department is also making moves to improve detective manpower, communication with those affected by violence and investigative abilities of those tasked with solving cases.

Hartsock said the goal is to have 16 homicide detectives, which will spread the resources to work cases “quicker, faster and with better results.” There are currently 10 detectives with three or four in training.

Hartsock said they also aim to get more victim advocates to communicate with victims’ families as detectives are sometimes unable to return phone calls or answer questions.

He said a two-week detective academy, a first for APD, will begin in June and teach 40 APD officers at a time, some of them current detectives. He said the course will cover everything from “court accepted interview techniques” and using social media to build up cases to forensic evidence collecting and report writing.

“All these things together… we’re really confident it’s going to improve our ability to solve these cases and solve them quicker and, hopefully, it’s going to stem the violence that we’re seeing as well,” he said.

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