As the opening riff to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” thundered throughout the room, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller walked to the lectern, giving his first State of the City Address.
Keller lauded what he said were many accomplishments of his administration, including improved crime rates, police reforms and an improved economic outlook.
“We woke up a few years ago to a city that had gradually slipped behind, worked our way to the top of the bad rankings and bottom of the good,” Keller said.
He cited Albuquerque’s 2018 crime statistics which saw a nearly 30 percent decrease in auto burglaries, a 30 percent decrease in auto theft, and an almost 20 percent decrease in commercial and residential burglary. Homicide and robbery saw about a 10 percent decrease according to a 2018 report compiled by the City of Albuquerque.
However, violent crime like homicide and rape did not see as much of a decrease, with homicides seeing a 10 percent decrease and rape seeing a four percent decrease. Nonfatal shootings rose four percent.
Keller cited the hiring of 89 new officers and the placement of 20 new leaders in the Albuquerque Police Department as the cause of the drop in crime.
On the campaign trail, Keller said he wanted to hire 400 more officers. In 2018, Keller pushed for raises for APD officers, according to an article in the Albuquerque Journal. During Saturday’s address, he highlighted the need to continue hiring officers.
“We are committed to bring 400 more officers in the next four years — and we are actually on target to have the first hundred at the end of the fiscal year,” Keller said, adding that he wants to reopen the Nob Hill and Old Town Substations and train officers to deal with mental health issues.
Keller also noted the decrease in sexual assault kit backlogs. In mid-December Keller’s office announced that of the 5,000 untested kits, nearly 3,000 were tested, although a tracking system for new kits has yet to be established. This led to a 20 percent of kits having a match with an offender whose DNA is in the national database, according to a report by KRQE.
Meanwhile, New Mexico ranks highest in the nation in fatal police shootings. Of the 20 in 2018, nine were in Albuquerque. Keller said that that number was a reflection of crime rates that were still incredibly high.
After his speech, Keller said he believes the city has made “a lot of progress” in curbing fatal police shootings and the nine deaths were a reflection of high crime rate.
Keller highlighted the guns used in violent crimes and outlined his administration’s stance on firearms for the coming year.
“We’re going to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons and minors the best we can — we’re going to go after stolen guns by arresting individuals who sell them,” Keller said, “We’re going to educate the public about how to keep their guns in safe storage”
Continuing with public safety, Keller said he wants to “do things differently when it comes to dealing with the gaps in behavioral health services and our homeless services.”
In the coming year Keller said he wants to open city-run, no-questions-asked shelters for those experiencing housing insecurity. Nearly 2,500 people experienced homelessness in Albuquerque in 2017, according to a 2017 Point in Time report that records people for one night at homeless shelters. Many experts say the number could be even higher.
For the coming year, Keller said he wants to increase housing vouchers for citizens. According to the City of Albuquerque website, housing vouchers let holders “choose any house that meets minimum health and safety standards where the landlord is willing to participate in the Section 8 program.”
Funding received for housing vouchers and Rental Assistance Programs (RAP) is mostly through grants and awards. Keller called on people in the community to donate to the program.
Keller did not mention unemployment in his address, something that Joseph Chavez, an unemployed citizen, said he hoped would discuss.
“(I came to) see if there’s something to help anybody, unemployed, or anybody employed,” Chavez said. “I want to see more help with my position, more jobs out there with the city, state or county.”
However, Keller spoke about the Netflix deal that brings the movie streaming and producing giant to a studio in Albuquerque, as reported in the Daily Lobo, as well as a push to utilize more goods and services from local businesses.
Moving forward, Keller said he hopes to have city buildings consuming energy from sustainable sources by 2022.
Justin Garcia is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Just516garc.
Anthony Jackson is the photo editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.