Living in the Nob Hill/University area of Albuquerque, adjacent to the Central Avenue corridor, has its perks. Within a healthy walk are historic houses, the sprawling UNM campus, tasty restaurants, fresh-roasted coffee, chocolate to die for, an iconic food co-op and some other interesting little shops. But take a cruise through the neighborhood app postings and one will see that many residents and business owners in this area feel crime is out of control on their streets.
Who Are We?
The Nob Hill/UNM area takes in a few square miles—for our purposes, it is roughly Interstate 25 on the west, Coal Ave. to the south, Carlisle Blvd. to the east and Constitution Ave. to the north. The area has million-dollar houses next to multi-family units filled with college students. Historic Route 66 bisects the area east to west. People facing homelessness seem to be more concentrated and visible along Central Avenue through Downtown, in the Nob Hill/UNM area and east of Louisiana Blvd. by near EXPO New Mexico.
The area is traditionally considered to be the most liberal area in the city, attracting UNM professors, Sandia Lab smarties, students, young families and Bohemian-natured free souls, along with regular folks who love the area.
What’s the Problem?
City crime stats show property crimes such as burglary—auto, home and business—dominate the types of crimes committed in the area. The area is patrolled by the Southeast Area Substation, so some of the Nob Hill/UNM stats get blurred into the greater substation area. This substation is bordered on the north by Interstate 40, Interstate 25 on the west, Eubank on the east and Kirtland Air Force Base and the city limits on the south.
UNM also has its own police department, which handles calls and situations on campus. But according to the latest Southeast Area Substation crime stats, during February 2021 there were 215 aggravated offenses, 104 burglary/B&E’s, 120 vandalisms, 81 narcotic offenses, four homicides, 226 theft/larcenies, 96 motor vehicle thefts, 27 robberies, seven stolen property and 48 weapon offenses. A comparison of substation crime stats shows that the southeast area command has an higher overall crime rate than the other areas. Homelessness, mental illness, addiction and poverty all play a part in the crime rates and in the healthcare system.
Can You Help, Project ECHO?
In 2003 a dynamic idea was brought forth here in the city. UNM’s Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), a collaborative model, was first applied to medical services and care management. This model empowered doctors to provide care where patients live via telemedicine and telementoring and bringing big city health care to rural areas. Project ECHO was founded by Dr. Sanjeev Arora. This groundbreaking idea changed healthcare around the world. In October 2020 Project ECHO was awarded $237 million in federal funding to provide remote infection control training and technical assistance to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Project ECHO programs are used in more than 400 partner institutions in 40 countries.
You can take this idea and apply it to public safety, which has a big partnership with and impact on community health—including mental health. This is a proven format where frontline law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters, other crisis, human service providers and the community at large can come together to broaden all of their skills to better manage crisis interactions in a smarter manner.
The Downtown Project ECHO has been up and running for a couple of years. On the second and fourth Thursday afternoon of the month, folks from the Albuquerque Police Department, Albuquerque Fire and Rescue, healthcare providers, social workers, business people, residents and others gather to talk about public safety issues in the Downtown area.
Mayor Tim Keller touted the project in April at its two-year mark by saying, “This was a first-of-its-kind test of a model that was bringing healthcare to the farthest corners of our state but had never been applied in a public safety setting. We saw the potential for an innovative and empowering way to address our challenges, and now we’re building real resilience around the challenges we face Downtown.”
Downtown Public Safety ECHO has held more than 76 sessions featuring presentations, case studies and conversations around public safety issues, including mental health, drug intervention and prevention, public safety, resources for the unhoused, sex trafficking, road rage, bullying, abandoned property disposal and more. More than 2,700 people have attended these virtual sessions.
Police officers have given praise to this program as well. In a press release, APD Officer Conor Coleman said the biggest impact that ECHO has had on him professionally is that, oftentimes, law enforcement officers are tasked with dealing with certain societal problems that really don’t have their fundamental nexus in criminal intent or criminal behavior. “That is where the ECHO program comes in. Now I have developed a Rolodex of resources, service providers—partners in the Downtown area, outside of the Downtown area—that can come up with solutions for when a criminal justice law-enforcement intervention isn’t what’s called for. When I encounter other officers who find themselves in a similar situation, I can pass that information on,” Coleman said.
We sat in on the June 10 Downtown Public Safety ECHO meeting to see how it all comes together. There were 37 to 41 people in attendance to discuss mental competency issues along with a discussion about mental health for property managers. The session was organized. It had practical information from real professionals that was passed on to attendees. The hosts made sure all the participants were recognized and heard if they had something to say.
Next Nob Hill
Nob Hill and UNM area residents who have had their cars, homes and businesses broken into and have felt like they were screaming into the abyss to get more police coverage will soon have a venue of their own. In the next couple weeks, the city plans on launching a Nob Hill/UNM Public Safety Project ECHO to bring together all the stakeholders to have conversations that will lead to solutions in the growing property crime rate.
Maria Wolfe works for the city and is in charge of these two Public Safety ECHO initiatives. “We are excited to try to bring solutions to the Nob Hill and UNM area too. There are not a lot of easy answers, but we can work collaboratively to try new things and build better partnerships and commit to learning together,” she said after Thursday’s Downtown session. Wolfe said those who live in or have businesses in Nob Hill/UNM are invited to take part in planning and developing priorities for the new program.
Take the online survey at cabq.gov/nobhill-usurvey or email Wolfe at NobHill-UECHO@cabq.gov to be a part of the upcoming Zoom sessions.