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#abq4ward: As crime skyrockets, so too does APD spending

Tessa Mentus
August 25, 2017 09:18 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Ask anyone how we fix the crime problem in Albuquerque and they’ll have an opinion.  You’ve told us what you think these past few months, and KOB has listened.

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Some of you have questioned if we are properly funding public safety in the city.  How much of our money is going to our police officers?  Are they getting the resources they need to protect us? 

We looked through financial figures for nearly the past decade.  As we launch #abq 4ward, we can certainly say your money is definitely being spent, but what are we getting out of it?

There’s a saying – “Money is not the only answer, but it makes a difference.”  Money, a lot of it, seems to be a potential answer for the city of Albuquerque when it comes to tackling the crime epidemic here. 

The whole “making a difference” part, though?  Not quite.

We scoured eight years of financial records and crime statistics for the city, looking at how much of your tax dollars APD spent, and how many officers are protecting us each year. We also looked at four major crime categories:  murder, robbery, burglary and auto theft. 

You might be surprised to find our research shows APD spending went up by $22.5 million since 2010.

"The mayor and city council have continuously increased funding for the police department over the last eight years,” said Rob Perry, chief administrative officer for the city.

What did we get for all our money?  We found another trend in our research.  The budget wasn’t the only item going up.  All four of those crime categories previously mentioned skyrocketed between 14 percent and 177 percent from 2010 to 2016.

Burglaries were up 14 percent since 2010.

Homicides saw a 52 percent increase.

Robberies were up by 97 percent.

And auto thefts shot up 177 percent.

We took those findings to Perry since he is the architect of Albuquerque’s budget, and asked if he was happy with the return on the investment into fighting crime.

“I think you have to consistently reinvest in yourself within the means available,” he said. “I think $23 million shows a commitment by this administration, by this city council and the mayor to focus on public safety and policing.”

About 45 percent of that $22.5 million investment goes to APD’s payroll. Salaries for police officers have increased since 2010 by over 20 percent.

The biggest raise for APD officers came in 2015 with a 5 percent increase.  There was also a 4.4 percent increase in 2016, while this year saw a 3 percent increase. 

These raises were agreed upon by the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.

You may think with more money going to officers, the department could attract and keep them.  You would be wrong.

In 2010, we had 1,065 sworn officers at APD.  The department added more than 30 the next year to bring the total to 1,097.  We lost more than 100 in 2012, taking the number down to 992. 

In 2013, the number dropped even further, to 907 officers and then 903 a year later. 

The total went even lower in 2015…down to 832. In 2016, APD added 13 officers, according to records, for a total of 845 sworn officers.

You’ve seen officer lapel camera video in newscasts before.  A camera for every APD officer isn’t cheap.

“Bringing policing to your living room, on KOB and other stations, with these things called lapel cameras – that's a million dollar program that was mandated by the DOJ, to fully equip (every officer) and to have the management tools of what to do with all that data,” Perry said.

There are those three little letters that have had major implications for the department and the bottom line.

“The DOJ, basically another $4 million in the heavy years involving a lot of training,” Perry said. “It's different being a police officer today than it was eight years ago. You're dealing with some real challenges in society, in the world.”

Here’s how Perry said the city is answering those challenges:  the Real Time Crime Center and the ALeRT team, which is completely focused on targeting repeat offenders in Albuquerque.  The price tag for both of those initiatives? Nearly $23 million.

So yes, the city is spending money; more than $171 million on police next year compared to $149 million in 2010. 

We asked Perry how frustrated he was with the results.

“As someone who has lived here for 40 years, went to college, my kids raised here and everything, I think we can do better,” Perry said. “But I think we all have to look at each other in the criminal justice system and recognize there are issues we can all improve.”

We pointed out to Perry that some people believe the Berry administration has become weak on crime, and asked him to explain what discussions officials were having to try and fix the crime epidemic.

“When the most commonly used four words at the Albuquerque Police Department is, ‘We caught them again,’ that kind of indicates there is a problem with repeat offenders and our ability to capacitate them with effective criminal justice court systems,” Perry answered.

Repeat offenders became a theme with Perry while KOB was talking to him.  That is the view from City Hall about how we got into this mess; the revolving door of criminals being let back into our community.

Our research shows we’ve had zero success so far at spending our way out of it.

Credits

Tessa Mentus

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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