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Albuquerque city officials rolled out the results of an ongoing and nationally renowned initiative aimed at reducing violent crime as Albuquerque grapples with what’s turning out to be a record year for homicides.
Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Harold Medina and others touted the success of the Violence Intervention Program on Friday afternoon. The news conference came the same day that Albuquerque marked its 49th homicide of the year – a man shot to death in the southwest area of the city. By this time last year there were 25 homicides and in 2019, a record-breaking year, there were 29.
VIP Manager Gerri Bachicha said less than 0.1% of the city’s population, 600 to 700 people, drive the majority of violent crime like homicides.
Launched in April 2020 and modeled after “Operation Ceasefire” in Oakland, California, the program offers resources, in lieu of punishment, to those identified as drivers of violent crime.
“The majority of these individuals are very young and … many simply just need the right resources and they need assistance to get their life on the right track,” Medina said of those the VIP program works with.
VIP program members – sometimes with Keller or Medina in tow – meet with those people at their homes to offer resources like shelter services, rental assistance, job training and counseling. But they also let the person know that APD is watching if they continue down the wrong path there will be consequences.
Medina said they have so far met with 149 people, ranging from teenagers to those in their 30s. The number of interventions has more than doubled since December, when it was 74, and the program has increased the number of interventions by more than 10% since last year.
Medina said, to APD’s knowledge, only 3% of the 149 people have gotten in trouble since those “custom notifications.”
Bachicha said three people have been arrested, mostly for drug-related offenses, and one person was shot and injured in a domestic incident.
VIP holds weekly shooting reviews with multiple agencies to go over shooting incidents and identify the drivers of violent crime and those at risk of becoming the next victim or suspect.
“At the end of the day we don’t want to see them killed or hurt or take action to where they’re incarcerated,” VIP Commander Luke Languit said. Languit recounted one of VIP’s first interventions on a man who had been shot and was planning retaliation. In the end, Languit said the man changed his mind.
“Knowing that we’ve even prevented one homicide, to me it’s meaningful and it’s showing that it’s successful,” he said.