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Albuquerque police are doing a much better job of solving homicides in 2022 than in the past several years – even as killings around the city are on pace to match last year’s record high.
The department on Thursday touted those successes, citing a 97% clearance rate with 47 suspects arrested, charged or identified in 40 recent and past homicide cases.
The annual clearance rate since 2017 has hovered between 53% and 65%.
Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said the clearance rate also includes cases forwarded to the district attorney for possible charges, such as the death of Karl Jurisson, and some justified homicides that were closed, like the man shot by bar security in 2020 on the West Side.
Mayor Tim Keller said the results send a “powerful signal to criminals in our city.”
“You will be held accountable, we will catch you and we are demonstrating that right now,” he said during Thursday’s briefing. “That also means for victims and for the justice system, we’re going to do our part. We’ve got a lot of holes and a lot more work to do. But we’re showing that we actually can do this.”
Of the 47 suspects arrested, charged or identified this year, 23 are suspected in 2022 homicides and 24 in previous year homicides, 17 from 2021, two from 2020 and five from 2019. Four suspects are dead and three are on the run.
Last year, there were 117 homicides, the highest total in Albuquerque’s history. So far this year there have been 43, which is on pace to match the record.
In 2021, the clearance rate was 53%; it was 60% in 2020 and 65% in 2019.
Police Chief Harold Medina said in his decades with the department he has never seen so many cases solved in such a short time.
Medina said the credit goes to the leadership of the Homicide Unit and the detectives, many of whom were seated at the back of the room.
“They have worked hard, they’ve made changes, and they’re working as a team to solve these cases,” he said, adding, “Great coaches and great leaders push their teams to do extraordinary things.”
Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock said advances in technology, better investigative training and working with prosecutors have all played a part in the unit’s development.
“This is one of the rare times we are arresting more people than new cases are coming our way,” he said. “This is a significant achievement.”
Tips also have played a large part.
Sonya Marquez, the Crime Stoppers liaison, said the program received at least 100 tips related to homicides this year. Recently, one tip led to the arrest of a suspect who fled to Colorado.
She said a person who saw the news story on Sam Archuleta – accused of fatally shooting his roommates late last month – spotted him in Durango.
Marquez said authorities nabbed Archuleta soon after.
Medina said it’s not always that fast. Or easy.
“These investigations take months … sometimes there’s a misconception, people watch TV and, in one hour, they solved the homicide case and somebody’s in custody,” he said. “Our cases take a whole lot longer but they’re a whole lot stronger because of this … because the last thing we want is to build a case that fails in the homestretch.”