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Arguably one of the most prominent issues in the mayoral election this year will be crime rates and whether people feel safe in the city. While overall crime is down slightly since Keller took office, violent crime and particularly homicides and gun crimes pile up. So will voters give Keller another chance on crime? The newest crime numbers show both progress and a dark spot for the administration.
Violent Crime in 2020 Was Up
The Paper. obtained exclusive access to the crime stats from 2020, and it’s not great news. According to the final report, violent crime is up by 3 percent in 2020, and the numbers are climbing. As of Feb. 21, 2021, there were 21 homicides in our Duke City—nearly double this time last year. APD attributes the rise in crime to younger people being out of school, lacking services or support systems, not participating in activities or sports, lack of jobs and increased mental illness caused by the pandemic.
So what’s being done about the violent uptick in crime? Last year the city was offered financial help to combat crime if it participated in Operation Legend. The city declined because it didn’t believe the operation was in line with the values of the city. Instead, the mayor pushed forward on their strategy to add more staff, specialized units and a lot of money. The Keller administration says that the nearly $40 million dollars per year generated by the Public Safety Tax Keller signed in 2018 allowed them to hire 100 officers per year for the past three years, and triple the number of homicide detectives from 5 to 15. According the mayor’s spokesperson, APD is on track to have 1,014 officers when the next cadet class graduates—but just half (511) are assigned to units to take your 911 call.
To lighten the load on cops and speed up response times, the city is pushing forward to alternative responses to non-emergency calls. The Albuquerque Community Safety Department and the Violence Intervention Program deploy trained professionals — but not cops — to assess behavioral health calls and provide post-shooting counseling for youth.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
The good news for the Keller administration is that an early focus on property crime offenders appears to be paying off. Property crimes are down by almost 18 percent over the last three years. That is a bright spot, as property crime accounts for almost 75 percent of crime in the city.
Who’s the Crime-fighting Hero?
On Feb. 18 the mayor held a press conference about the proactive approach the administration was taking to tackling crime. APD said they had made over 1,000 arrests and 140 gun recoveries in the past six months. Unlike the sheriff’s neighborhood saturation patrols that have drawn community criticism, APD says it uses “a citywide focus based on data-driven crime analysis, rather than neighborhood round-ups that serve as photo-ops and don’t address crime or victims of crime.”
In January, the city hired Research and Polling, Inc. to survey 300 citizens about safety and policing in the city. Only 30 percent said they felt safe at night. Another 38 percent said they felt somewhat safe, a slightly higher but critical mark.
The administration seems confident that they’re on the right track with the implemented policing tactics, despite the dismal trend in violent crime. His team points out that their focus on addressing the causes of crime, not just creating more arrests for statistics’ sake.