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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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In the mid-year crime report released on Wednesday by the Albuquerque Police Dept., the results were a bit mixed. Despite a record-breaking year for homicides, property and auto theft crime is on the decline in the Albuquerque metro area.  

“We know homicides and gun violence have gone up dramatically during COVID, and we are doing a lot to address those spikes,” APD Chief Harold Medina said. “At the same time, our steady decline in property crime is significant. As we recover from the pandemic, I believe we will see results from initiatives like the Violence Intervention Program that will impact gun violence.”

According to the mid-year crime report, total crime is down by 20 percent. Total crimes have dropped significantly as APD has worked closely with New Mexico State Police and other partners, such as car insurance agencies, to combat crime in the metro area. But similar to other areas of the country, violent crime continues to rise. In a record-breaking year, as of August 30, APD is currently investigating 79 homicide cases involving 83 homicide victims.

The most promising trend is that APD’s effort to reduce auto thefts in the city seems to be paying off. From 2016 to 2018, Albuquerque was ranked as the worst city in the nation for auto theft. According to APD, auto thefts have declined 9 percent from 2019 and a whopping 42 percent since 2018. 

“The steady improvement in fighting auto theft is a testament to proactive policing and successful partnerships,” Mayor Tim Keller said. “When we came into office four years, Albuquerque was first in the nation for auto theft. We hired more officers and tackled auto theft head-on. We need help from other partners in the criminal justice system to close the revolving door and ensure the same offenders are not on the streets stealing more vehicles.”

APD Chief Harold Medina also touted the success of the operations and his experience in property crimes as part of the reason for the decline. “We continue to work hard with our partners to drive down auto theft, which we know is a key driver of all other crime in the metro area,” Medina said. He also added in a jab toward the Bernalillo County Sheriff. “The entire four-county region is showing decreases, except for areas of Bernalillo County that are outside of Albuquerque city limits. I hope the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office will take steps to stop the increase in auto thefts in those areas.”

Property crimes also saw a significant decrease. According to the mid-year crime report, property crimes decreased from 33,383 in the mid-year report in 2020 to 22,065 in 2021. The report is in line with the trend from 2017 to 2018, where property crimes dropped by more than 4,000 incidents before a sharp uptick from 2019 to 2020. 

Chief Medina said he hopes to reduce the number of auto thefts by another 200 to 300 per year when he leaves office.

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