A Deadly Week
Police and citizens react to six killings in eight days
By Simon McCormack
Saturday, July 5: A man living at an East Central apartment complex is arrested on charges of shooting and killing one person and wounding another.
Monday, July 7: A man's body is found in the trunk of a car near Osuna and Wyoming. Police call the incident a possible homicide.
Monday, July 7: A man is gunned down near a Westside car wash.
Tuesday, July 8: A man is fatally shot outside Isleta Casino.
Wednesday, July 9: A young woman is killed in an armed robbery inside a Chinese restaurant on San Pedro and Menaul.
Saturday, July 12: A man shoots and kills another man in a Downtown parking structure after police say the two exchanged dirty looks.
That's six possible homicides in about a week. The violence left Albuquerque resident Sarah Jennings concerned. "It makes me more cautious," Jennings says. "I'm going to a concert Downtown next week, and I'm thinking, Where's a safe place to park?"
Jennings, who moved here from New York City two years ago, says she thinks Albuquerque is not a safe place. Her son lives near UNM, and Jennings says he's had his house broken into several times. "I'm sure the police are doing the best they can," she says. "But they're understaffed, and all the crime isn't good. It's really a shame."
Albuquerque Police Department Chief Ray Schultz wrote in an e-mail that his department is aware of the harm the deaths have caused. "The recent number of homicides strikes at the very heart of many of our local families," Schultz wrote. "We at the Albuquerque Police Department are committed to not only solving those crimes but have taken a very aggressive stance wherein we are targeting many of the procedures that lead to violent acts."
After an especially violent eight days, APD Spokesperson John Walsh says police remain undeterred in their fight to keep Albuquerque as safe as possible. "We're not at all discouraged," Walsh says. "Each year we take on a variety of different crimes."
When asked for Mayor Martin Chavez’ take, Deborah James, his spokesperson, referred the Alibi to Walsh's statement.
The Westside death on south Coors outside the city limits and the Isleta Casino death are not within APD's jurisdiction. Walsh says the four killings that happened within city limits are not part of a crime wave or connected to each other. "These were all separate incidents that were very unique unto themselves," Walsh says. "They're not part of a larger trend."
Police have arrested and charged suspects in three of the four cases. A suspect in the Saturday, July 12, death has been named but not captured.
Walsh says by policing lower-level offenses such as property crime, domestic abuse and assault, murders become less likely. "If you can bring people in and have them held accountable in the courts for these kinds of crimes," Walsh says, "you can hopefully prevent the most tragic of violent acts."
Brenton Christensen is visiting Albuquerque from Sioux Falls, S.D. He says the recent violence doesn’t make him feel less safe, but it might make him think twice about setting down roots in the Duke City. "I'm not sure it would make me want to move here," Christensen says.
A little more than a month ago, APD launched its summer strategy, which includes programs designed to target DWI, underage drinking and property crime, among other offenses. According to Walsh, there are usually more violent crimes committed during the summer than any other time of year. He adds that despite the spate of killings, there have been fewer this year than there were by this time in 2007.
So far in 2008, 23 homicides took place in Albuquerque. That number doesn't include the possible homicide involving the body found in the trunk of an abandoned car. At this time last year, between 26 and 29 killings happened in Albuquerque, according to Walsh.
Albuquerque resident Ron Peterson takes a measured approach to the recent violence. "Parts of the city are safe, and some parts aren't," he says. "Overall, I think Albuquerque is probably safer than most big cities."
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