The city’s website shows that from 2006 to 2015, overall crime in Albuquerque rose by 7%. Most shockingly, violent crime is up 19%. On August 12, 2016, KOAT-TV reported that Albuquerque is the fifth most violent city in the country. Even worse, on June 9, 2017 the Albuquerque Journal reported that Albuquerque leads the nation in per capita car thefts with 10,011 cars stolen in 2016. Which is a 50% increase over the number for 2015. Despicable, when one considers that in 2015, the number of car thefts increased by 45.6% over the number stolen in 2014.
These statistics are bleak. Something must change, now.
All the current council members who are seeking re-election are now talking about crime and recruiting more police officers. Why now? Why a suddenly “talk tough” Campaign sound bite after 4-12 years serving on the Council? Where was this rhetoric, and more importantly action, while the city plunged into a criminal abyss?
Let’s look at APD staffing. According to the annual reports from APD, the last time the department employed over 1,000 officers was in 2011 when the staffing level was 1,097. This number has continually declined since then; the 2015 annual report (the most current year available on the city’s website) reported a staffing level of only 832 officers. On April 28, 2017 the Albuquerque Journal validated that abysmal number by reporting that there were still only 839 officers serving us at APD.
What steps has our current Council taken to fix this problem?
While our Police Force was withering away directly in front of them, instead of devoting energy and resources to save it and protect our citizens, they foisted a questionably needed, questionably financed Albuquerque Rapid Transit project upon us without even a public vote.
Nobody is going to ride the ART if they risk getting robbed or their life is in danger.
To recruit more officers, we must restore the reputation and good name of APD. To do this the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the DOJ must first be completed. The focus of everyone from the Mayor to the City Council to the Police Chief must be on completing the requirements that the city agreed to and restoring our reputation throughout the country.
The second step is to increase recruiting and repair the relationship between APD and the community. We should give the Civilian Police Oversight Agency the authority that they need to enforce their recommendations on the department. Civilian oversight is meaningless if the department doesn’t have to listen to their voice.
We also need to return to sustainable community based policing. Officers need to become a part of the neighborhoods that they patrol. It is imperative that the officers know the people that they serve and be anchors in their communities and neighborhoods. APD recruiting efforts should begin with our Albuquerque youth. Show them, their families and neighbors that police work is about helping and serving their community as peace officers. The city needs to end the requirement to have two years of college to join APD, and start recruiting our young men and women that are graduating from high school and don’t have a desire to attend college. The city should be giving these young adults the opportunity to serve their communities.
After APD recruits these officers, the city should provide incentives to stay. In this year’s budget, officer longevity pay was made contingent on the city meeting its revenue projections.
That is unacceptable and arguably repulsive.
It sends the message to our officers that they really aren’t that important. The city still had money to fund five golf courses, but just not enough to tell our experienced officers that they were appreciated. If elected City Councilor, I will never support a budget that doesn’t put public safety and proper compensation of our police force as the top priority.
Everything in this city hinges on public safety. We can build parks, rapid transit systems, libraries, and community centers, but they are of no use to anyone if people of all ages don’t feel that they can safely use them.
Economic development will not happen until crime is under control.
We cannot trust the same people who have sat on the council, in some cases, for over a decade to fix the problems that they watched spiral out of control.
This leads me to my final point. The out of control growth of crime in this city over the past 12 years, provides for a very strong argument to demand that the City Council have term limits. We term limit the Mayor’s Office and the County Commission. There is nothing special about a City Council seat that requires potential lifetime membership. If I am elected to the City Council, I will push for a two-term limit for members of the City Council. If I cannot get that legislation passed, I promise to serve no more than two terms.
Since the current council has refused to legislate term limits, this must be the year that we use our power at the ballot box to enact them.
No more career city councilors.
New voices and priorities are desperately needed at City Hall. We have a chance to end Albuquerque’s stagnation with a new City Council on October 3rd. The painfully real and fatally serious problems facing our city must be addressed now! Not in 4 years with a fresh overdose of recycled campaign rhetoric.
It is my desire to become one of those new voices on the City Council come October 3rd. A fresh voice who understands what the priorities of government should be.
“The proper role of government is to prevent other people from harming an individual.” Milton Friedman’s interpretation of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”