After meeting with police chiefs from across the nation, one thing is clear: Cities are battling a surge in violent crime that stems from illegal drugs, domestic violence and guns – trends we are seeing in Albuquerque, as well. Despite the challenges during the past year, our police agencies have to be resilient and do all that we can to keep our communities safe.
According to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, homicides increased in 38 of the largest cities between the first three months of 2020 and the same time period in 2021. Portland’s normally low homicide rate skyrocketed by 1,100%. Homicides in Fresno jumped by 306%; Oakland by 209%; Indianapolis by 189%; El Paso by 150%; Miami, Omaha and Orlando jumped by 100%.
The increase in homicides coincides with the onset of the pandemic. We didn’t see the same increase in homicides in Albuquerque in 2020, but that changed in 2021, producing more homicides during the first three months.
We are tracking trends that are specific to Albuquerque, and our officers are working diligently to fight crime where it makes the most sense. For example:
n We are conducting social media operations focusing on people setting up drug deals with the intent to rob the other party. Detectives collaborated with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the State Police to purchase narcotics through social media platforms and investigate the narcotics traffickers.
• Offenders use cheap motel rooms to set up drug deals and trafficking operations. Twelve homicides occurred at these motels. We have increased enforcement operations, and we are working with motel owners to deter these crimes.
• We are responding more frequently to domestic disputes. Two incidents turned deadly this month, shattering the lives of loved ones left behind. Domestic violence can happen anywhere, but we tend to see incidents at apartment complexes. We recently saturated a cluster of apartment complexes along Montgomery Boulevard NE. We worked with residents to build trust. Without it, victims and survivors are less likely to report crimes like domestic violence. Since we started this operation, there have not been any shootings in the targeted areas.
Our officers are working hard every day to keep communities safe. We have dramatically reduced property crime across the board during the past four years.
Violent crime is less prevalent in most neighborhoods, but it is just as important to police. We tripled the size of our homicide unit, and we are starting the first-ever detective academy next month to ensure more effective investigations. We hired hundreds of new officers, which allowed us to create Proactive Response Teams and a Gun Violence Reduction Unit. We also created the Metro 15 focusing on individuals who are drivers of crime and a Violence Intervention Program to help young people avoid being offenders and victims of violent crime.
Finally, I shifted the focus of the department to ensure we always have proactive operations being planned and executed. We have completed 36 weekly operations resulting in more than 1,700 arrests.
I have been reluctant to directly blame others in the criminal justice system when I see problems that need to be addressed. I first try to see if there is a way for APD to be more efficient and effective to fill those gaps. However, I am asking partners to work more closely with APD. Our officers are doing their jobs and making arrests. We must ensure repeat offenders are prosecuted, stay in jail or receive services they need to keep them from a path to more criminal conduct.