AP NEWS

New Mexico’s largest city takes heat for flawed crime stats

December 2, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s largest city is taking more heat for flaws in its crime statistics.

The numbers released in July and at the end of 2018 have been revised dramatically to include hundreds — and in some cases thousands — more incidents than were reported initially, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

The city has blamed a lack of staffing at the records unit that prepared the data and a software glitch that resulted in chunks of data missing.

More details about the reasons for the discrepancies came after The Associated Press first reported in October that the city had amended its midyear statistics, noting that several categories of crime had declined by smaller percentages than initially touted by city officials.

The corrected figures showed aggravated assaults declined by just 7.5%, not 33%, for the first six months of 2019 when compared with the same period the previous year. Rape decreased 3%, not 29%, and auto theft decreased 22%, not 39%.

As for homicides, the city reported a 2.5% decrease for the first half of the year, not 18%. However, homicides have since increased substantially since July and the city will end up marking another record year.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller acknowledged the discrepancies last week but said the downward trends remain the same for most categories.

“I think we can find some truth in the trends,” he said.

City officials told the Journal they plan to officially release crime statistics for the third quarter in the coming weeks. That quarter ended in September.

Crime statistics and rankings have remained a political flashpoint in New Mexico as municipal officials and lawmakers grapple with how to boost public safety while attempting to attract more tourism and jobs. The statistics also have been highlighted as the debate continues over the state’s bail reforms.

According to federal data released earlier this fall, New Mexico had the nation’s second-highest violent crime rate and its highest property crime rate in 2018, despite Albuquerque reporting slight decreases in both categories for the first time in years.

Reporting by law enforcement agencies for the federal report is voluntary. As a result, the data offer a broad look at crime in thousands of U.S. cities but can be inconsistent and incomplete.

According to the FBI, Albuquerque and Las Cruces are among a handful of U.S. cities that changed their crime reporting practices from 2017 to 2018, as the federal agency pushed local officials to adopt a new standard for reporting.

When first asked about the numbers in October, Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said, “there were several factors that we were not aware of at that point.” Among the issues was the need for records officials to verify the thousands of calls for service received by dispatchers and compare them to reports and the actual crimes investigated.

Gallegos said it also was discovered that six weeks’ worth of reports had not been reviewed to determine if they needed to be revised to fit into the right categories.

The software problem also resulted in many incidents not getting counted at all, he said.

The city plans to ask the Legislature for $20 million to modernize the police department. That would include a new records system.