Journalism and Innovation from The University of New Mexico
Crime Increase Stirs Up Anger in SE Albuquerque
By Victor Santos and Isaac De Luna / NM News Port
The International District, in southeast Albuquerque, has been called the “war zone” for its enduring crime problem. An issue which only got worse between August and October of this year.
According to APD and CrimeMapping.com, from August 7 to October 7, 2017, Vehicle Break-in/Theft cases have increased from 22 to 27, Burglary cases from 18 to 26, and Motor Vehicle Theft cases from 32 to 40.
The latest uptick only adds to the area’s troubled crime data. A recent report looked at crime patterns in the International District over the past three years. The report found violent crimes happened at 1-10 addresses in the area. Property crimes are even more common, happening at 1-3 addresses.
“I do not think the police is doing enough to control the situation we are experiencing,” said Maritza Diaz a resident of the Warren Park Apartments, located on Louisiana Street and Continental.
“I never see them around, unless something bad happens,”she said. Diaz and her husband have been living in the apartment complex for more than three years. The neighborhood used to be quiet, she said.
“Since this year started, criminals have stolen two cars from the apartment’s parking lot,” Diaz said. “We usually go to sleep late, because I work until
one or two [in the morning], and then, when we wake up the next morning, the car is not there.”
Since last year, Diaz has seen more homeless people around, asking for money to buy drugs, and people walking around the parking lot, who do not live in the apartment’s complex, she said.
At 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. in the morning, there are no security guards checking on these people, Diaz said.
Another resident of the area Santiago Garcia has been living in the district for the last eight years. Garcia is retired and spends his days at home watching what is happening around the community, during the day and sometimes at night, he said.
“Vandalism has been too strong for the last eight years,” Garcia said. “I see a lot of homeless people everyday and they are bothering us whenever they have a chance.”
“I believe, if they did nothing good with their life, neither study or work, when they were young, we have no responsibility to take care of them,” Garcia said “The city should take them somewhere and place them out of our community.”
Luis Hernandez, APD detective, who worked the International District for more than 10 years said the problem is in the lack of communication between community and law enforcement.
“The resources are limited, there is no denying that fact, but it is a compounding problem,” Hernandez said. “The second part of it, is the community involvement. For some reason, some people are reluctant to call the police department; so with the lack of information, the lack of communication between the community and the police department, some problems — I am not going to say — are difficult to handle.”
The police can’t respond if they don’t know what is happening, he said.
“It is just the lack of knowledge of the problem,” Hernandez said. “We really need the community to speak up and say, ‘you know what? We are starting to see this here.’”
Ofelia Perez is a resident of the Plaza Feliz apartments, located at La Espanola Street. She has been hearing gunfire at night and around 4 a.m.and 5 a.m. in the morning when she goes to work, she said.
“I do not really know where the shootings come from, but I hear them behind my building when I am inside my apartment, and when I go to work,” Perez said. “I do not know how the police does not hear and stop them, knowing our lives could be in danger.”
Perez concedes that Detective Hernandez has a point about lack of communication between the APD and her community. She has never called the police to report anything she has been experiencing because she assumed they knew about everything that was happening in the area, she said.
“I thought a police officer was around all the time, and that they were listening to the shootings at night, but now that I know they are not,” Perez said “I am going to have to report any incident. I will keep in touch more with the police to see if that changes the violent experience we are experiencing every day and night.” Hernandez hopes to see some improvement in the area, he said.
By March or April of next year, the City of Albuquerque will start the construction of a new police substation at the International District; which could provide more coverage in the area and improve the working relationship with the community, Hernandez said.