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FBI statistics: Crime rose in New Mexico during 2017

September 25, 2018

New Mexicans tired of seeing their state at the top of all the worst national rankings will not be heartened by the FBI’s latest crime statistics, which show the rates of violent crime and property crime increased in 2017.

The newly released data show the state again ranked among the most dangerous last year.

But this may not be case closed.

The data also show crime fell in many New Mexican cities beyond Albuquerque. And officials in New Mexico’s biggest city say they are beginning to turn around a yearslong rise in crime.

The same FBI report released Monday showed the violent crime and murder rates declining nationally for the first time since 2014. And even after steady increases from 2015-16, the murder rates have remained at an overall rate not seen since the 1960s.

In Santa Fe, the FBI data show some property crime and violent crime falling, if just slightly.

But the number of murders and cases of non-negligent manslaughter rose from one in 2016 to four in 2017, according to the FBI’s data. Reports of rape increased, too.

The number of burglaries rose and reports of larceny declined, according to the FBI data. And while the numbers show a decrease in auto theft, police say they continued to see an increase last year from 223 in 2016 to 246 in 2017

“I’m more confident in the numbers we have,” said Deputy Chief Robert Vasquez.

The FBI’s annual statistics can include inconsistent data or at least make for difficult comparisons between communities due to the various ways different police departments gather and categorize information.

The trend in auto theft can be traced in part to the city’s proximity to an interstate and stolen vehicles proving popular for trafficking and committing other crimes, Vasquez says.

Other trends reflect opportunity, such as an increase in breaking into cars and a decline in breaking into homes to commit burglary, he said.

Much of it comes back to some broader problems, officials say.

“When it involves property crime, it has to do with drugs. One leads to the other,” said Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia. “When you get rid of the addiction problem, you will see property crimes go down.”

While some New Mexico cities have seen crime rates flatten or fall, Albuquerque’s have risen in recent years.

Politicians, pundits and just about everyone else have come up with their theories about the real-life public safety concerns in the city that brought the world Breaking Bad.

Some have blamed under staffing in the Albuquerque Police Department, which has been racked by scandal, with the U.S. Department of Justice declaring in 2014 that it had demonstrated a pattern or practice of using excessive force. Others point to changes in the way judges set bail for criminal suspects, which conservatives in particular have described as creating a “catch and release” system in the courtroom.

Then, there are the persistent woes common to much of New Mexico — high rates of poverty and unemployment coupled with stubborn substance abuse problems made only worse by the rise of methamphetamine.

Albuquerque police say this year has so far seen a decline in many crimes. Officers had conducted 35 percent more traffic stops as of Sept. 5 while robberies had fallen 40 percent. On Monday, Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez said crime was down for the first time in nearly eight years.

“Obviously we are making progress under the new administration,” Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. “We are changing the culture at APD so we can effectively lower crime and make the neighborhoods safe with a comprehensive approach to addiction, behavioral health and homelessness.”

Of course, if the data hold, this would still amount to just a start in reversing a long trend that has come to reflect New Mexico’s halting recovery from the recession.

The state ranked first in the country for burglary and robbery and second in the country for motor vehicle theft behind Alaska — an improvement from 2016.

Violent Crimes Per 100,000 Residents For 2017

District of Columbia 1,004.9

Alaska 829.0

New Mexico 783.5

Tennessee 651.5

Louisiana 557.0

Nevada 555.9

Arkansas 554.9

Missouri 530.3

Alabama 524.2

Arizona 508.0

South Carolina 506.2

Maryland 500.2

Oklahoma 456.2

Delaware 453.4

Michigan 450.0

California 449.3

Texas 438.9

Illinois 438.8

South Dakota 433.6

Kansas 413.0

Florida 408.0

Indiana 399.0

Montana 377.1

Colorado 368.1

North Carolina 363.7

Massachusetts 358.0

Georgia 357.2

New York 356.7

West Virginia 350.7

Wisconsin 319.9

Pennsylvania 313.3

Nebraska 305.9

Washington 304.5

Ohio 297.5

Iowa 293.4

Mississippi 285.7

Oregon 281.8

North Dakota 281.3

Hawaii 250.6

Utah 238.9

Minnesota 238.3

Wyoming 237.5

Puerto Rico 232.6

Rhode Island 232.2

New Jersey 228.8

Connecticut 228.0

Idaho 226.4

Kentucky 225.8

Virginia 208.2

New Hampshire 198.7

Vermont 165.8

Maine 121.0

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