Under stay-at-home order, Downtown crime plumets

For the core and most neighborhoods, March had the lowest levels since at least July of 2018.

That's despite the fact that the lockdown only started roughly halfway through the month.
Crime levels throughout the Downtown core and most of the surrounding neighborhoods dropped dramatically in March as stay-at-home orders removed many of the motives and opportunities that are often the precursors of crime.

Our measurement area that covers the Downtown core logged just 96 incidents in an area that routinely sees 140, representing the quietest month since we began measuring in July of 2018. The second-lowest month was December of 2018, with 105 incidents. (Learn more about how we measure crime here.)

Elsewhere in greater Downtown, Barelas, Sawmill, Old Town, the northwest portion of the Downtown Neighborhoods, and West Old Town saw their lowest levels in the last two years. Huning Castle and West Park, meanwhile, saw five-month lows, and Wells Park, a six-month low. (Full details, in the form of our usual monthly collection of charts, are below.)

Overall, our greater Downtown incident count dipped to 223, a 33 percent drop from the average number from the previous 20 months. Our weekly disturbing the peace tracker, meanwhile, also took a dive, logging just 301 incidents, the lowest number since last September except for Thanksgiving week.

"The crimes we commonly experienced have gone away because those crimes are affected or influenced by people being out and about," says Lt. Aaron Jones, who heads up the Downtown Public Saftey District for APD.

(We reached Jones at home, where he was telecommuting while he awaited the coronavirus test results of someone he had arrested. "My first day that I've ever worked from home as a police officer," he said.)

That situation has all sorts of knock-on effects: Fewer people and fewer open businesses mean fewer potential targets for crimes like larceny. Other crimes, like assaults related to alcohol, are less likely to happen with all bars shuttered. 

There could also be a deterrent effect, because with fewer people around, "It's a lot easier to find someone driving a stolen vehicle or someone breaking into a business," Jones says. 

It's also possible that some people likely to commit crimes are just staying home to help the cause like so many others, or on the flip side, that crime is actually higher than the data suggest but is less likely to be reported with fewer eyes on the street. 

Given that the last pandemic of this magnitude was over 100 years ago and reporting standards have evolved considerably since, "we're all kind of guessing here," Jones says.

Two types of crimes have ticked up. Jones has seen an increase in commercial burglaries, which would seem to make sense given that people are more likely to be at home and away from their businesses. Domestic violence has also increased nationwide and worldwide, though Jones says he hasn't seen that uptick registering Downtown.

And though the numbers are pretty dramatic as these things go, they are not even based on a 30-day sample, Jones noted. The first coronavirus cases were announced March 11, with restaurants ordered to move to takeout only on March 18. The April numbers might bring further surprises.

"It's changing daily," Jones says.

Here are the numbers:
The drop represents a 33 percent decrease relative to the average of the previous 20 months.
The level ties the number from Thanksgiving week last year.
Downtown Albuquerque News covers greater Downtown, which we generally define as the area created by I-40, the Rio Grande, and the railroad tracks. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. To subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do, click here. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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