4 Investigates: Albuquerque business leaders step up to help tackle crime problem

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque residents can fairly declare—violent crime is spiraling out of control. It’s mid-April and Albuquerque is on track to break all homicide records by the end of the year.

Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina is the first to admit his department can’t go at it alone.

“I think its imperative that we work with the community to ensure that Albuquerque can become a safe place,” Chief Medina said in a news conference earlier in the month.?

Perhaps it’s time Albuquerque residents to realize government alone can’t get the city out of its crime crisis. It would appear, leaders in Albuquerque’s business sector have already come to that conclusion. They have pooled their money together to put toward crime solving strategies.

It’s not entirely surprising to see the business sector stepping up. To recap, homicides have increased over the last couple of years. Despite Mayor Tim Keller’s campaign promise to get APD staffed at 1,200 officers, APD remains significantly short of that staffing number, and leadership at APD has been turbulent with Mayor Keller firing APD Chief Mike Geier last fall. Chief Medina officially took office just last month.

Outside of the purview of City Hall, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raul Torrez expanded the scope of his role from prosecuting crimes to also investigating them. Funding from the State Legislature helped him create the Crime Strategies Unit.

A multi-million grant, funded by Albuquerque’s business sector, and awarded by the Albuquerque Community Foundation will go toward expanding what the Crime Strategies Unit does in the future.

“We were actually approached by some senior leaders inside the business community and they said, ‘You know, we were thinking about making a big investment to try to move the needle on public safety,’” District Attorney Raul Torrez said.

Inside the Crime Strategies Unit, agents take information from law enforcement and enter it all into a database. Using data analytics, agents have been able to solve rapes, shootings and murders by mapping out how criminals are associated with each other and by connecting the dots linking guns and vehicles to crimes.

“The idea is to take information as quickly as possible from the crimes that are occurring and then deliver that to people who can take proactive measures to intervene to stop the next shooting,” Torrez said. “It’s not simply about investigating the last murder or investigating the last shooting, a lot of times we’re seeing crimes occur, and it’s part of a cycle.”

The Albuquerque Community Foundation collected about $3 million from business leaders across the Metro for a public safety grant. That grant will go toward building up the work inside the DA’s Crime Strategies Unit. RS21, a data analytics company has been selected to build the infrastructure that will allow the DA’s Office to share information with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors across the state.

“I’ve found from the very beginning, when you engage with business leaders, they’re eager to help because they understand the economic priority in terms of making this a safer community,” Torrez said. “But more than that, they’re raising their kids here, they’re trying to build companies that benefit the community and their employees and they care deeply about people. And so I wanted to approach this in a way where we were open the door and we let others come in and offer resources and offer ideas.”