If our new mayor commits to resolving the crime issue and does it, the economic future for Albuquerque will improve. It’s as simple as that.
BY DENNIS MAEZ
The time for finger pointing has past. Yes, it’s time to stop complaining about Mayor Richard Berry, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden and the city councilors who have sat on their hands and let the situation get to where it is today.
We all know the situation the City of Albuquerque is in: horrific crimes against children, murders and mayhem every day, some days several times a day, car thefts on an hourly basis, carjackings in mall parking lots, homes being broken into, young adults daily dying from the scourge of opioids, and on and on.
We know where we as a community are, and the finger pointing at those we say are responsible for our lot in life has been going on for months, if not years. But if you’ve lived anywhere other than Albuquerque for any length of time you know what a great place this city is, or was, and can be again.
As a federal agent I lived in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Houston and San Antonio and couldn’t wait to come home to Albuquerque. New Mexico really is the Land of Enchantment, green, red or Christmas… only in New Mexico.
Has it changed since I was a street cop with the APD back in the late 1970s and early 1980s? Sure it has. Does it make me sad to see the way it is today? Yes it does. Do I think it can be a lot better than it is today? I really do.
In October, the citizens of this city will elect a new mayor and some new city councilors. That is the ray of hope for Albuquerque.
We need a mayor in this big small town who will be in front of the TV cameras every day explaining how we can make Albuquerque a city where we’re not at the top of the bad lists, a city where folks passing through won’t write about having all their possessions stolen from their U-Haul after a 10 hour drive when they stop in Albuquerque to rest for the night, a city where when you wake up in the morning you don’t have to wonder if your car is still in the driveway, and a city where you’re not afraid to go to the mall for fear of being robbed or carjacked.
If the candidate for mayor you’re leaning towards is touting economic development as their main policy initiative, flip the page and move on to the next candidate. Economic development is a myth, a pipe dream for Albuquerque until the crime problem is resolved.
If you owned a company with 1,000 employees would you move those folks to Albuquerque? If that company owner read our local newspapers and watched our local news on TV, he or she would say “Hell no, I’m not taking my employees to that crime-ridden, out-of-control city.”
And we wouldn’t blame that CEO, would we?
If our new mayor commits to resolving the crime issue and does it, the economic future for Albuquerque will improve. It’s as simple as that. Our new mayor will need to understand that new parks, new pretty medians on our roadways, new ART-type projects, new libraries and new bike paths are great, but why put the limited resources into projects that the citizens won’t use and can’t enjoy because they’re too worried about becoming victims to leave their homes?
Until the city administrators raise the salaries of rank-and-file APD officers they will leave in droves and new qualified recruits won’t want to be police officers in this city. The Albuquerque Police Department should be the highest paid, fully staffed, best trained police department in the Southwest. My father always said “you get what you pay for.”
Our new mayor should hire a police chief that won’t blame the police union, the courts, the District Attorney, the Department of Justice and the Legislature for the crime problem we live with today. The new police chief must be innovative, leverage law enforcement partners from other agencies, state, local and federal, to immediately get the crime problem under control.
The new chief needs to be independent and not beholding to the current command staff at the police department. The “good ole boy” network within the current APD needs to end the day a new chief is sworn in and takes command.
On day one, that chief must do what it takes to resolve the issues that have been mandated by the Department of Justice and get that mess behind us. The citizens of Albuquerque don’t realize what a strain our police department is under, but law enforcement professionals do.
Like the business owner, if you were a police officer in another city, or a young person thinking of a career in law enforcement, would you consider being a cop in a department under a DOJ consent decree?
This isn’t rocket science, my fellow neighbors in Albuquerque, it’s common sense, it’s prioritization, it’s putting they’re money where it needs to be right now. And right now the money needs to be in making our city safer, cutting the crime immediately, and making Albuquerque a very, very bad place to be a criminal.
The social programs, the treatment programs and training programs are all very important and need to be funded, but first we need to stop the bleeding, stop the mayhem and be able to wake up and not have to wonder if our cars are still in our driveways.
Maez is a retired U.S. Secret Service agent and former Albuquerque cop.