Editorial: Open Space Unit will have more impact patrolling ABQ streets - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Open Space Unit will have more impact patrolling ABQ streets

Every little bit helps when it comes to crimefighting.

The Albuquerque Police Department’s decision to disband its Open Space Unit makes sense. Dissolving the five-person unit will mean four more trained officers and a sergeant out patrolling the streets.

The Open Space Unit has been responsible for patrolling river, mountain and mesa areas. But its utilization has become limited.

Rebecca Atkins, an APD spokeswoman, said that, this week, the four Open Space officers generated just 29 reports in the past 90 days, about seven per officer over a three-month period. By contrast, Atkins says APD field officers average 15 reports per day.

The plan is for police service aides, or PSAs, to take over the Open Space Unit’s duties in February. PSAs, who often are conscientious young men and women working their way up to becoming a sworn officer, are unarmed, and assist with traffic control, writing property crime reports and other non-sworn public service duties.

PSAs should be more than up to assuming the Open Space Unit’s responsibilities, which include opening and closing gates in open spaces. We don’t need certified officers doing that. We need them on the streets.

APD plans to assign open space collateral duties to a core group of 12 specially trained APD officers who can respond to search-and-rescue missions and river operations when needed. Moreover, State Police have primary responsibility on such calls.

With 860 sworn officers, down from 878 in April, APD remains short-staffed. The department is budgeted for at least 1,100 officers, but the city isn’t likely to meet that goal anytime soon. Reassigning the open space officers to patrolling streets is a stopgap measure, but a good one.

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.

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