Mayoral candidates discuss plans to address public safety
September 15, 2017 06:33 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- On Oct. 3, voters will head to the polls to decide who should be the next mayor.
Over the last 10 days, KOB introduced viewers to each candidate and asked them how they plan to increase public safety in Albuquerque. For their candidate profiles and questionnaires submitted to KOB, click here.
Ricardo Chavez is a small business owner. A newcomer to politics, Chavez acknowledges he's not experienced in combatting crime. But KOB asked him what ideas he has to turn Albuquerque's crime epidemic around.
"I'm not going to be a police chief. I'm going to hire the best person in the country, one that has a proven record, not just recommendations or credentials, one that has a record of turning around police departments," Chavez said.
Brian Colón, an attorney, said he'd focus on getting treatment for criminals suffering from addiction and mental health issues, hiring more officers, and increasing community policing.
"That means putting our officers on the street. It means increasing visibility on the streets of Albuquerque. It means rebuilding our special units that have been just decimated with this new model," he said. "We've got to increase our property crime unit, out auto theft division, our detective."
Michelle Garcia Holmes, a retired Albuquerque Police Detective, said solving crime problems has been a life-long career for her.
"Auto theft, we are number one. Number one in auto theft, 10,000 cars a year," she said. "Twenty-some cars a day are stolen a day. We need to start a real auto theft team, a regional auto theft team to address the auto theft problem."
Wayne Johnson, a Bernalillo County commissioner, also believes the solution lies in community policing – something that can be accomplished despite a current shortage of officers in APD.
"You have to have appropriate staffing that's part of it, but we can't wait 18 months to be able to recruit and train a whole new batch of officers. That's part of the problem," he said. "So what do you do when you have a staff shortage? You go and look to your apartment in the area. You bring in resources from the county, you bring in resources from the adjacent counties, and you start working together to solve whatever criminal problem that you've got. Whether it's car theft, homicides, you start working together in task forces."
State Auditor Tim Keller also believes APD needs to focus on community policing, hiring more officers and adding more officers to the department's special crime units.
"We've got to get back to basics," he said. "That means police in the street in your neighborhood, and it means reducing those 911 response calls, and it means having special units to actually follow up and throw these folks in jail instead of letting them come back out."
Dan Lewis, an Albuquerque city councilor and entrepreneur, said his solution is to bolster the Albuquerque Police Department with more resources. He plans to get APD up to 1,200 officers – or 25 for every 10,000 citizens.
"We can get there quickly. I've proposed and I will propose in my first day in office as mayor a $15 million increase to APD specifically for pay raises, to make sure our officers have competitive pay and get to 1,200 police officers," Lewis said. "It won't be a matter of how many we need. It'll be how quickly will we get there if we prioritize public safety in our budget."
Gus Pedrotty, the youngest candidate and recent graduate of UNM, said his age could help change the city's negative police perception. He believes one way to curb the city's crime rate is to bolster the city's economy.
"This is what I'm passionate about because if I wanted to fix crime as a silent-off conversation I would become a police officer," he said. "But it happens in so many ways it's a systemic issue and crime is only a superficial conversation. So the city has to support its citizens in every other way. We can do that with a few great spheres that incorporate education right now because education is also an underlying factor in that."
Susan Wheeler-Deichsel, a citizen advocate and innkeeper, said she has experience in revitalizing some of the major hubs of downtown Albuquerque. She said education is key to the crime problem.
"We have to readdress education in our schools and that's not tangential at all," she said. "If children do not complete school successfully prepared to go to work, many of them will decide to live lives that involve criminal behavior."
Updated: September 15, 2017 06:33 PM
Created: September 15, 2017 04:24 PM
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