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Berry’s Crime Plan, Take 2

Berry’s Crime Plan, Take 2

'Police officers feel disrespected by R.J. Berry' - APD union head


In January 2010, Mayor Richard Berry announced a 15-point anticrime plan that he said would drive criminals, not just out of the city but out of the region.

“We’re going to make Albuquerque a bad place to be a criminal,” Berry said in a 10-minute YouTube video.

“We’re not just going to drive them out of Albuquerque, we’re going to drive them out of our region, or we’re going to send them to jail,” he said.Clock showing how often crimes occur in ABQ

Something went wrong, though.

The crooks apparently didn’t watch the video.

Since Berry’s first full year in office in 2010, major crime in the city – murder, rape, robberies, burglaries, auto thefts, larcenies and aggravated assaults – has increased by 22 percent. Last year, property crime, which was the focus of Berry’s 2010 anticrime effort, increased by 11.5 percent, and violent crime was up 9.2 percent over 2014.

Through August of this year, auto thefts were up 30 percent over the same period in 2015, which was a near-record year. The metro area now has the second highest per-capita auto theft rate in the nation.

Where ABQ Ranks in Crime

   The website Worldatlas.com, using FBI Uniform Crime Reports, reports that in 2015, Albuquerque had the 25th highest violent crime rate of cities with populations above 250,000. The website Neighborhoodscout.com, which ranks all cities using an overall crime index, gave Albuquerque an overall crime score of 3, with the best score being 100. That means that Albuquerque is safer than 3 percent of all U.S. cities.

Here are the ranks and violent crime rates per 100,000 residents of some cities from the Worldatlas.com list:

1. Detroit 1,988
2. Memphis 1,740
3. Oakland 1,685
4. St. Louis 1,678
5. Milwaukee 1,476
15. Toledo 1,091
24. Chicago 884
25. Albuquerque 882
28. Las Vegas 841
30. Pittsburgh 798

    How Many Cops is Enough?

Experts differ how many cops a police department should have and how those staffing numbers should be determined. Some say the number should be calculated on a per-capita basis, meaning there should be a specific number of officers for every 10,000 residents. Others say levels should be based on need, such as crime rates or desired response times.

A 2010 study by three professors at National University in La Jolla, Calif., pegged the ideal per-capita staffing level at 20-40 officers per 10,000 residents.

Whichever model is used, the Albuquerque Police Department appears to be sorely understaffed at 14.9 officers per 10,000 residents. APD’s shrinking force has resulted in longer response times for “Priority 1” calls – shootings, robberies, dead bodies and car wrecks with injuries.

In 2010, APD’s response time for those calls was 8 minutes and 56 seconds. By mid-2015 that had increased to 11 minutes and 12 seconds.

A city study earlier this year said APD needs 1,000 officers. That number would put the staffing level at 17.9 cops per 10,000 residents. APD would need 1,150 officers to reach National University’s recommended minimum level of 20 cops per 10,000 residents.

Here’s a look at the 2015 staffing levels of police departments in the region for the number of officers per 10,000 residents.

Salt Lake City              22.6
Denver                         21.5
Las Vegas                     20.9
Austin                           18.6
Phoenix                        17.8
Tucson                         17.6
Oklahoma City 17.1
Albuquerque               14.9
El Paso             14.7
Colorado Springs         14

Berry has blamed the crime increase on judges who let repeat multiple offenders out of jail after their arrest. His recent $60,000 study on why crime is nearly out of control concluded that the problem is that there aren’t enough people in jail. Fewer people in jail means more criminals on the streets committing crimes, the study said.

Berry’s critics said he’s responsible for the increase in crime and that his policies – breaking a police union contract and cutting police pay in his first year as mayor – caused cops to flee the department.

In 2010, there were 1,065 sworn officers on the APD force. In 2015, that had fallen to 832, a 21.9 percent drop. In 2010, city cops made 31,174 arrests. Last year, that fell to 22,820, a 26.8 percent decline.

“This is simple math: Fewer cops equal more crime,” said Shawn Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association. “We are doing 125 fewer arrests a week. Does anybody wonder why the Metropolitan Detention Center doesn’t have anybody in the jail? How can the judicial branch be held accountable for arrests we’re not making?”

A New Plan

The mayor now has another crime-fighting plan. On Oct. 12, he announced a 14-point proposal that has some critics wondering what happened to the 2010 plan that was supposed to make Albuquerque a bad place to be a criminal.chart showing increase in ABQ crime

Willoughby said many street cops are furious that the city’s news media, in reporting on Berry’s latest plan and his $60,000 crime study, didn’t mention the mayor’s failed 2010 plan.

“Police officers feel disrespected by R.J. Berry, and they are frustrated because no one seems to fact-check this guy or hold him accountable for the things he says,” Willoughby said. “The rank and file are sick of his studies that fit right into his political agenda.”

City Hall refused to answer questions about the mayor’s failed 2010 crime plan. Berry spokeswoman Rhiannon Samuel did respond to an initial email from ABQ Free Press Weekly seeking to talk with someone about the plan, but she answered no questions and did not make Berry or anyone else available for an interview.

ABQ Free Press Weekly looked at the major points of Berry’s 2010 plan to see what happened to them. Here are the results:

The mayor promised to put more cops on the street. In 2009, there were 468 officers assigned to answer calls. Berry promised to raise that to 500 in 2010. That never happened. By 2012, large numbers of officers were leaving the department. The number of field officers taking calls fell steadily and is now a little above 400, less than when Berry took office.

He promised to engage in regional crime fighting and partner with area district attorneys to form a multijurisdictional property crime task force. That never happened, at least according to Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg, who, presumably, would have been part of such a task force. Several months ago, Brandenburg confessed that she has had virtually no communication with Chief Gorden Eden.

The mayor promised a night detective squad to target what he called “offenders who prey on victims at night.” The detectives were to use night-vision goggles. “Thieves work around-the-clock, and now we will, too,” Berry said.

A night detective shift was established but lasted less than two years because of a lack of officers, Willoughby said.

By 2012, large numbers of officers were leaving the department. The number of field officers taking calls fell steadily and is now a little above 400, less than when Berry took office

Berry promised to create an email list so block crime-watch captains could communicate with one another and share information. “We can’t do this alone. The best deterrence against crime is watchful neighbors,” Berry said.

That apparently never happened. Retired APD officer Al Ludi, a block captain in the city’s Northwest Side, tried for seven months earlier this year to get a list of phone numbers, email addresses and home addresses for block captains in his part of the city. He said APD refused to give it to him until he requested it under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.

The mayor promised to create an automated notification system that would tweet a list of stolen motor vehicles every morning. He also promised to create a “property crimes” link on APD’s website where residents could communicate directly with the department’s specialized units. If these two things ever were in place, they aren’t now. There is no “property crimes” link on APD’s website.

‘Thieves work around the clock, and now we will, too’ – Mayor Richard Berry in a 2010 YouTube video

Berry promised to have businesses donate “bait” vehicles that APD could use to catch auto thieves. This appears to be one of the few things of Berry’s plan that was implemented, but it hasn’t worked. Auto thefts are up 30 percent this year.

The mayor promised to send crime scene investigators to every burglary, no matter how small. That was nothing new. CSIs have always been sent to burglaries where there is workable evidence, Willoughby said.

The mayor promised a night detective squad to target what he called ‘offenders who prey on victims at night.’ The detectives were to use night-vision goggles

Berry’s other initiatives included asking the Legislature to strengthen the state’s “Three strikes” law, which hasn’t happened, and he promised to publish the mug shots of property crimes suspects, which did happen.

Willoughby said that many things in Berry’s 2010 plan would have worked if his policies had not caused APD to shrink.

“Berry inherited a good, well-managed, well-producing machine in the APD, and he has destroyed it,” Willoughby said. “He has to take personal responsibility for what he has done as commander in chief of this city.”

Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press Weekly. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com Dan Klein is a retired APD sergeant. Reach him through Facebook.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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  • Pete Dinelli
    November 7, 2016, 10:53 am

    I agree with APD union President Shawn Willoughby when he says “Berry inherited a good, well-managed, well-producing machine in the APD, and he has destroyed it” and would add that the City council allowed it to happen. This report shows that there is a direct correlation between the number of sworn police officers, crime rates and prosecutions. Seven years ago when Berry took office, APD had 1,100 sworn cops and today APD has 837 cops. The number of felony indictments by the District Attorney’s Office has gone down dramatically from 5,000 a year to 2,000 a year. APD’s felony crime divisions are having difficulty completing the investigations and getting them over to the DA’s office for prosecution because of lack personnel. Seven years ago when I left as the supervisor of the City Traffic Court arraignment program, we were processing approximately 60,000 traffic citations a year and today program is processing only 25,000 citations. The number of DWI arrests and convictions has also gone down dramatically. Fewer cops results in a decline in arrests, reduced indictments, and fewer criminals being convicted and sentenced.

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