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Albuquerque, New Mexico, shatters homicide record by 46%

January 3, 2022 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s largest city recorded 117 killings in 2021, shattering its previous homicide record by 46%.

The previous homicide record of 80 was set just three years earlier, during Mayor Tim Keller’s first term. He acknowledged over the summer that the city would surely surpass 100 killings in 2021, and he remains under pressure to address the problem as he starts his second term.

Family members of many victims have been frustrated. Some worked to bring attention to gun violence through a national memorial effort in the fall. In December, the city named 14 people to its gun violence prevention and intervention task force to come up with recommendations over the next 12 months.

City officials also have pointed to a lack of consequences for repeat offenders as one of the reasons Albuquerque continues to struggle with crime. Police Chief Harold Medina has repeatedly said changes in the judicial system are needed.

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Keller has acknowledged the challenges for New Mexico’s largest city.

“There is no doubt that we face a tough road ahead. That’s why we are pushing forward so fiercely. It’s not just in spite of our challenges, but because of them,” he said after being sworn in Saturday.

All but three of the 2021 killings are being investigated by Albuquerque police, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating another 11 homicides in the areas surrounding the city.

Over the past 35 years, Albuquerque’s yearly homicide count has averaged about 45 homicides per year, KRQE reported. The average has risen in the past few years, according to federal crime data. Albuquerque homicides now account for more than half of New Mexico’s entire yearly homicide count.

In the first three quarters of 2021, Albuquerque had 111 violent crimes per 10,000 people, according to FBI data. That put Albuquerque in the top 10 most violent cities with populations over 100,000 people.

Other U.S. cities also saw increases in homicide numbers over the past year. That includes Chicago, which marked one of its most violent years on record. Statistics released by Chicago police over the weekend listed 797 homicides — 25 more than were recorded in 2020 and the most since 1996.

Medina, the Albuquerque police chief, said he believes the pandemic also is to blame for nationwide spikes in homicides, suicides, drug overdoses and traffic crashes. He said public behavior has changed dramatically in the last two years.

Still, Medina is hopeful. He said in an email to The Associated Press that Albuquerque is in a better position now than most cities because of continued investments in public safety and new violence intervention programs.

“We tripled the number of homicide detectives, and we invested $80 million in crime-fighting technology,” he said. “The Metro Crime Initiative brings together all parts of the criminal justice system so we can end the revolving door for repeat offenders and finally strike a balance when it comes to keeping people safe.”