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APOA: Not Enough Detectives To Handle Rape Kit Backlog

APOA: Not Enough Detectives To Handle Rape Kit Backlog

Berry's $1 Million Funding Increase Does Not Address Understaffing, Union Says

The president of the Albuquerque police officer’s union says that Mayor Richard Berry’s proposal to put $1 million toward reducing the backlog of more than 4,000 untested rape kits is a hollow gesture because there aren’t enough detectives to investigate the cases once the kits are processed.

APD has only four or five detectives to investigate rapes and their workload is overwhelming because the chronically understaffed department has gutted its investigations unit in recent years, said Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.

“The story is, who is going to investigate them?” Willoughby told freeabq.com. “If they waved a magic wand and all the rape kits were tested tomorrow, there would be nobody to investigate them. There would be a stack of cases on a detective’s desk who already has a stack of cases.

“There’s nobody in the police department to apprehend suspects, gather information and submit cases to the District Attorney’s office.”

In 2015, 404 rapes were reported to APD, and the department had a clearance rate of 30 percent on those cases, below the national average of 39 percent, according to APD’s 2015 annual report.

It takes 40 to 50 hours and about $1,000 to process a single rape kit. If there is DNA evidence that can link the assault to an offender, detectives have to spend time putting a criminal case together.

“This is not a property crime. You’re dealing with human beings. You have to deal with the evidence, have a photo array and get statements from the victims,” Willoughby said. “The cases don’t stop at the crime lab, and if you don’t have an investigative division, the cases will just stack up on shelves until someone can get to them.”

Berry’s proposed budget includes $7 million in additional money for APD, but Willoughby said that will do nothing to increase the number of cops in the department and reduce crime in the city because it includes no pay raises for cops.

“We’re used to getting smacked in the face by this administration,” Willoughby said. “The public is getting smacked in the face. We don’t have the number of officers we need. The public knows it and our criminals know it.

“The public can read through his [Berry’s] budget and understand that his priorities are not law enforcement or public safety.”

To illustrate just how understaffed APD’s investigations unit is, Willoughby pointed to El Paso.

“Last Year El Paso had 813 auto thefts, and they have 32 auto theft detectives,” Willoughby said. “We had more than 8,000 auto thefts and we have six detectives working those cases.”

In his budget message to the City Council, Berry said that public safety was one of his priorities. He said that putting $1.2 million toward a property crimes reduction unit was evidence of that priority.

But Willoughby said the people Berry wants to hire will merely take property crime reports and won’t do anything to reduce crime.

“They will be property crime report takers and will have absolutely no impact on crime,” Willoughby said.

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

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