July 27, 2016

In ABQ, arrests fall as crime rises

In the past few weeks, Albuquerque has seen headlines about a recent spike in the city’s crime.

Jail CellBut as both property and violent crime in the city increases, two other key indicators dropped between 2014 and 2015: the number of police officers and arrests.

Between the two years, the number of arrests recorded by the city dropped by 10 percent, or from 25,358 to 22,820. During that same period, the number of sworn Albuquerque Police Department officers shrunk by 8 percentage points, or from 903 cops to 832 cops.

“There’s a direct correlation with having more patrol officers and having a drop in crime,” Shaun Willoughby, an APD detective president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said in an interview. “It’s not rocket science.”

Not all types of crimes saw drops in the arrest numbers. In 2015, APD officers made more arrests than the year before for homicides, robberies, arson, stolen property and assault. But APD made fewer arrests for sexual assault, prostitution, liquor and drug laws, car theft, burglaries and others.

One of the biggest decreases came in rape arrests, which decreased by nearly 65 percent, or from 45 arrests to 16 arrests.

The drop in officers and arrests comes at a time when Albuquerque’s violent crime and property crime increased 10 percent and 11 percent respectively. Car theft alone skyrocketed by 45 percent in 2015, prompting the National Insurance Crime Bureau to rank Albuquerque as the second worst city in the nation to own a car.

APOA, which represents police officers, blames the drop on the city’s investment in public safety.

Willoughby points to 2010 data, when the city employed roughly 1,000 officers. Police made more than 31,000 arrests that year, or nearly 10,000 more arrests than in 2015.

He said roughly 60 police officers leave APD each year, while the city hasn’t been able to adequately replace those officers since then.

Willoughby added that crime will only continue increasing if the city doesn’t increase its cop ranks, arguing that if Albuquerque has money to build a rapid transit bus line and expand the convention center—two of Mayor Richard Berry’s signature projects—it has money for more police.

NM Political Report reached out to spokespeople for APD and Berry about the drop in arrests and cops, neither of whom responded before press time.

In an interview with KRQE-TV earlier this month, Berry partly blamed the spike on a case management order set by the state Supreme Court and meant to speed up Bernalillo County prosecutions. District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has also criticized the Supreme Court order for its tight prosecutorial deadlines imposed on her office.