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Violent crimes per capita up slightly in Albuquerque


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Violent crimes per capita were up slightly in Albuquerque in 2013, primarily due to a broader definition of rape, according to an FBI report.

There were 4,325 violent crimes in Albuquerque in 2013, according to an annual report released Monday by the FBI called “Crime in the United States,” up from 4,151 the previous year. That’s a rate of 774 per 100,000 residents.

Albuquerque’s violent crime rate was 750 per 100,000 in 2012. But that 3 percent increase was the result of police tallying male and female victims and other previously not counted sex crimes for the crime report in 2013, according to the FBI.

The other violent crimes in the report are murder and non-negligent homicide, robbery and aggravated assault.

Albuquerque’s violent crime rate in 2013 was still more than twice the national average, and violent crimes were more prevalent here than in several similar-sized Western cities, according to recently released crime statistics.

But the national average is a skewed statistic because of the many nonviolent rural areas included in the data, said T.J. Wilham, the director of Albuquerque police’s Real Time Crime Center who oversees crime analysis.

When compared to the biggest cities in the country, he said, Albuquerque doesn’t rank as particularly dangerous, He also said Albuquerque’s murder rate was a near-record low in 2013.

Nationally, the 2013 estimated violent crime rate was 368 per 100,000 people, according to the report.

“People are concerned with crime,” Albuquerque City Council President Ken Sanchez said. “A safe city is a prosperous city. And if people don’t feel safe, you’re not going to have that prosperity.”

Mayor Richard Berry said despite those concerns, the city has become safer since he was elected.

“I can’t create a perception,” he said. “It’s my job … to make sure the police officers are out there to combat crime.”

Albuquerque’s violent crime rate was higher than Tucson, Denver, Omaha, Neb., Portland, Ore., and Fresno, Calif. – all of which have around half a million residents within their limits, according to the FBI report.

But even though Albuquerque had a higher violent crime rate than those cities, all of them but Portland had more homicides than Albuquerque last year, according to the FBI statistics. There were 37 homicides in Albuquerque in 2013, down from 41 in 2012.

“That’s what caught our attention this year,” Wilham said of the murder rate, noting there were 56 homicides in 2009 and Albuquerque has had as many as 70 homicides in a year.

Several similar-sized cities had a much higher violent crime rate than Albuquerque in 2013.

The Duke City reported less than half as many violent crimes as Memphis, Tenn., where the violent crime rate was 1,656 per 100,000 residents in 2013, and Milwaukee nearly doubled Albuquerque’s violent crime rate. Those cities each had more than 100 homicides in 2013.

Wilham said Albuquerque historically ranks outside the top 30 violent crime rates among the 100 largest cities in the country. He said larger cities – such as Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago – typically have a higher violent crime rate.

Sherman McCorkle, a vice chairman for the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said Albuquerque has gained a reputation in recent years as a violent city.

“All businesses are concerned” about the crime rate, he said. “It’s not good for attracting businesses. That’s stating the obvious. But that’s our reality.”

Sanchez said he believes the city’s crime rate will improve as a result of the settlement agreement recently reached between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice. One aspect of the settlement calls for the city to address staffing issues, which will reduce the crime rate, he said.

The FBI said police agencies voluntarily submitted statistics for the report. The federal agency cautioned against using the data to compare cities because the crime rate is based entirely on population, and “rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area, or region.”

There were 30,531 property crimes in Albuquerque in 2013, which was up nearly 3 percent from 29,718 property crimes in 2012.

The University of New Mexico reported 37 violent crimes, six rapes and 31 aggravated assaults in 2013, according to the FBI report. The university was not in the FBI’s 2012 report.