CIVIC CENTER — Despite the opening licks of a Judas Priest song, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s second State of the City gave off a subdued feel.
After introductory jokes about Colorado chile feuds and penguins in the desert subsided, Keller addressed a more sobering topic — crime.
Since the start of Keller’s administration, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) hired 100 new officers. Keller said that for the first time in a decade, APD is “1,000 officers strong.”
Keller’s administration also graduated the largest Albuquerque Fire Rescue (AFR) class in 10 years, doubled the amount of APD’s Mobile Crisis teams and introduced non-emergency services like Home Engagement and Alternative Response Team (HEART) and Basic Life Support (BLS) to reduce 911 calls.
But even with a year’s worth of novel approaches, criminal activity in the city remains high.
Although initial 2018 and 2019 mid-year statistics released by APD suggested a sizable drop in overall crimes, the Albuquerque Journal discovered a miscalculation in the numbers.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, the discrepancy between the original statistics released and the true number of reported incidents was in the hundreds in some categories.
Though the corrected statistics show there has been a general decrease in most categories — such as auto burglaries and theft — homicide has risen in the city and Albuquerque crime rates remain higher than the national average.
Keller said substance abuse is one underlying cause of crimes in Albuquerque.
“It is addiction that is the fuel of the fire for much of our violent crime. Our city has been increasingly stricken by addiction — from alcohol to meth, to heroin,” Keller said.
APD Violent Crime investigators Megan Glynn and Dan Spink said another possible cause of the city’s high crime rates may lie in the predetermined pretrial release system. In this system, offenders automatically qualify for pretrial release unless judges deny it on the basis of a felony background or capital offense.
Knowing this, Keller has implemented two distinct programs — the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) and Metro 15 — to help combat the cycle.
Moving forward, Keller announced that APD is on track to clear the rape kit backlog by spring 2020 and to hire another 100 officers by the end of the year.
Keller said that next month, his administration will ask the Department of Justice (DOJ) to end monitoring of nearly a quarter of the 276 requirements so APD can “focus back on crime.” The DOJ will not end their oversight until all 276 requirements are met.
“This (request) is going to be the largest step forward the city has taken to address these challenges since it all started in 2014,” Keller said.
Justin Garcia contributed reporting to this article.
Alyssa Martinez is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers student government. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amart447