Report: NM ranks 2nd in nation for violent crime

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico had the second-highest violent crime rate in the country in 2013, and the violent crime rate in the Land of Enchantment was more than four times the rate in Vermont, the country’s least-violent state, according to FBI crime data.

The special report published last week by 24/7 Wall St., an organization that provides financial news for several national media outlets, analyzed 2013 crime data compiled by the FBI. It relied on the same data the Journal used in a November story about Albuquerque’s violent crime rate in 2013 being up 3 percent from 2012.

But tourism and public officials say New Mexico doesn’t have a violent reputation. Evidence includes the increasing number of visitors and tourism revenue to the state during the past two years, said Rebecca Latham, the secretary designate for the New Mexico Tourism Department.

“We haven’t received any phone calls or emails questioning the safety of New Mexico,” she said. “If there was a concern, that would have been brought up by consumers and the hospitality industry.”

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Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said city surveys show the vast majority of residents feel safe during the day and at night. And he said he doesn’t think the city has missed out on economic development opportunities because it has a violent reputation.

“But we take (Albuquerque’s crime rate) very seriously,” he said. “We’re never happy with our crime rate and we’re trying to drive it down every year.”

Berry said resources that address homelessness, addiction and education have lowered the city’s crime rate in recent years and can continue the trend.

The violent crime rate in New Mexico is 597 per 100,000 residents, according to the 24/7 Wall St. report. In Albuquerque, the rate was 774 per 100,000, which is more than twice the national average of 368 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, according to the FBI’s reports; Gallup had the state’s highest violent crime rate in 2013, with 2,086 per 100,000.

Violent crimes counted in the data are rape, murder, non-negligent homicide, robbery and aggravated assault.

There were 125 murders in New Mexico in 2013 and 37 of those were in Albuquerque, which was near a record low. That was down from 41 in 2012 and 56 in 2009. The Duke City has had as many as 70 murders in a year, police officials have said. New Mexico did lead the country in aggravated assaults per capita, according to the 24/7 Wall St. report.

Alaska was the only state with a higher violent crime than New Mexico, where the rate was 602 per 100,000. Nevada, Tennessee and Louisiana wrapped up the top five most violent states.

Conversely, the nation’s most nonviolent states were, in order, Vermont, Maine, Virginia, Wyoming and Kentucky.

Nationwide, violent crime in America dropped 4.4 percent from 2012 to 2013, continuing a downward trend. It has dropped nearly 15 percent in the past decade across the country, according to the 24/7 Wall St. report.

The FBI, which compiled the statistics used in the report, cautions against using the data to compare jurisdictions. Frank Fisher, an FBI spokesman in Albuquerque, said that using only self-reported crime data is an incomplete and unfair way to compare different places.

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