New city program hopes to make downtown Albuquerque safer

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – City officials believe they have a plan to make downtown safer, but someone else is footing the bill. 

Mayor Tim Keller Tuesday admitted past solutions aimed at solving crime downtown have not worked, but he believes this new approach has more potential because businesses will have some skin in the game.

“It’s going to start after the Fourth of July, but downtown all of a sudden is going to be a very different place,” said Keller. 

City leaders are promising big changes – hopefully convincing more folks to spend time in the heart of the city.

“We are going to treat downtown, essentially, like a neighborhood that has an acute crime problem,” Keller said. 

They’re calling it the Downtown TEAM, which stands for targeted enforcement, action, and monitoring. It’s a public-private partnership that Keller says will put more officers in the right place, at the right time.

He said the program will give APD extra manpower during key parts of the day to combat a wider range of crimes – including stolen vehicles, traffic violations, and even harassment.

“Once we start this, it’s going to be very hard to get away with what people are getting away with downtown,” said Keller. 

APD Police Chief Harold Medina said “TEAM” is a variation of the chief’s overtime program, which allows individual businesses to pay for police protection. This time, businesses would be paying to protect the entire neighborhood. 

“The city is going to step up and help downtown. But downtown has to take control of their own future too,” Keller said. 

Keller says the city has already raised $90,000 so far, including a $15,000 donation from PNM.

“Crime is a shared responsibility and the first order of business for any downtown revitalization work,” said Shannon Jackson, PNM spokesperson. 

And at least one downtown business owner is already on board.

“If we could get more people down here and improve our business because then we’ll have more money to spend and help out financially in that regard,” said Rich Baca, owner of Bourbon & Boots. 

City leaders said this is the first step to a hopefully brighter future downtown.

“Across this country, every downtown district has gone through some kind of fear or horrible incident,” said Medina. “That’s why we want to make sure that we’re putting additional resources out here to make sure that people can come out here and feel safe at the end of the night, and that there are resources here to protect individuals.” 

Medina anticipates there will be enough officers willing to participate. However, Keller said there’s only enough funding to last through the summer. He’s hoping other businesses will get on board once the program is in motion.