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Tucked between Downtown Burque and the mighty Rio Grande to the west are several unique neighborhoods that are worthy of a look by prospective residents. One popular question asked by those looking at this metro area is: Is it safe? What about the crime rates?

Where and What?

The area of West Downtown that we are talking about is roughly along the Central Avenue corridor from 12th Street to the Rio Grande, to Interstate 40 on the north to the Country Club area on the south. This includes Old Town and the Sawmill areas.

All of these areas are patrolled by one of the largest area police substations, the Valley Substation. The Valley Area Command is bordered by the city limits on the north and south, Interstate 25 to the east and the Rio Grande, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque and the North Valley. Because this is such a large command area, it is a bit difficult to separate out these communities from the overall statistics.

According to the city’s Valley Substation police webpage, the latest stats are from April 2021. That month there were 233 reported aggravated offenses, 186 larceny/theft offenses, 145 destruction/damages/vandalism of property, 51 motor vehicle theft, 42 burglary/breaking and entering, 22 weapon law offenses, 20 drug/narcotic offenses and four stolen property crimes. This was up pretty much across the board from March 2021.

As of July 12, there have been 69 homicides citywide since the beginning of the year. All of 2020 had 76 city wide homicides.

To get a better idea on what is happening on the streets and what type of calls folks are making to summon the police, we went to the city’s interactive crime-mapping website to take a look at  these unique neighborhoods and what crimes were being reported from June 17 to July 14, 2021. You can check out the site here: crimemapping.com

Old Town 

Since the late 1770s, when Old Town was the center of Albuquerque, there were gunfights, robbers and a host of other crimes happening all the time. Today Old Town is the city’s historic gem. And crime is still around, just not gunfights. 

Public disturbance calls were by far the top reason for the 75 calls for service in the immediate Old Town Plaza area. During the June 17 to July 14 window, there were about 59 public disturbance calls for service that include traffic stops, traffic accidents with no injuries, suspicious vehicles or people, a fight in progress and other minor scuffles. Next are less than a handful of assaults, one commercial and one individual armed robbery, two residential burglaries, a couple of auto burglaries and vandalism calls, three theft, fraud or embezzlement calls, one DUI and one shots fired call.

One local resident we talked to—we’ll call her “P.N.”—had a family business in Old Town for years before shuttering the doors due to COVID-19-related economic impacts when the state’s non-essential businesses were shut down. P.N. said she does not remember any violent incidents other than at the protest and shooting over the statue of Don Juan Oñate in June 2020. She said Old Town is not like any other tourist or retail area in the city; it is unique and historic. Yet, she said Old Town has its share of break-ins, vandalism, shoplifting and experiences a big problem with homelessness and panhandling in and around the plaza.

Sawmill Neighborhood

The Sawmill area is north of Old Town. A little more than 100 years ago, Mountain Road was the original route to bring logs down to Old Town from the Sandia Mountains. Back then 12th Street was the entrance to the Sawmill area, which was a huge wood-milling complex. You can bet it was a wild part of old Albuquerque with all the mill workers hooting and hollering after work. Over the decades the 27 acres that make up the Sawmill neighborhood saw lots of changes, including a polluting particle board factory. But all that is cleaned up, and now it has quieted down and is a desirable residential commercial area. Crime seems to be quiet these days as well.

During our window of crime time, this area saw about 26 public disturbance calls, three auto burglaries and one auto theft call. Not too bad for what was once a Wild West area of Burque.

The Ritzy Side?

South of West Downtown is the Albuquerque Country Club area. This is home to some of the city’s most stunning old mansions. The ACC has been in its current site since about 1928, when the golf course was put in. Only a few stately homes were put in, as the 1929 stock market crash impacted building across the country. Most of the mini mansions and stately homes were built after World War II. Here is the $20 dollar question: Did crime follow the money? 

It appears it has. During our four-week time window of June 17 to July 14, this area saw more crime than we saw in the Old Town and Sawmill areas. Public disturbances make up the bulk of the 85 calls for service. There were also seven auto burglaries, one commercial burglary, four aggravated assaults, two shots fired and three theft, fraud or embezzlement calls.

Crime Prevention

Downtown has the Public Safety Project ECHO to help coordinate the various law enforcement, emergency medical, nonprofits and other social agencies. This should help get to the root of what is causing criminal behavior in the Downtown community. Project ECHO is gearing up in the Nob Hill/University area, and the city will be looking at future plans to expand the program into other areas of the city once the Nob Hill/University area one is up and running, according to Maria Wolfe, the police department’s Project ECHO coordinator.

Wolfe said anyone, no matter where they live in the city, is welcome to attend the public meetings that are held monthly in the other two areas to see what is the happenings. More information can be found at cabq.gov/echo.

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