APD's Valley Area Commander on 2nd speeding, Coronado Park, Raynolds parking, bike patrols, why you should always call, and more

In the first of a two-part series, Joshua Brown takes a tour of greater Downtown's top neighborhood law enforcement issues. 

TOMORROW: Brown's answers to some frequently-asked home security questions, and more. 

We recently put out a call to Alert DAN Readers soliciting questions that we could add to our interview with Joshua Brown, the newly-installed commander of Albuquerque Police's sprawling Valley Area, which includes all of greater Downtown. Needless to say, you responded at impressively high volume! Many thanks to Alert Readers Laura, Lawrence, Rudy, Charlie, Mike, James, and Cardinal for their questions or assistance in prepping them.

Here's what Brown had to say: 

There is a rumor going around that less urgent information called into the non-emergency line (242-COPS) is not actually saved in APD databases. But we’ve also heard - often from your officers at neighborhood association meetings - that every scrap of data from every call is saved for further analysis, even if it doesn’t generate a longer police report and even if an officer cannot be dispatched right away. What's true?

All that data is saved for further analysis, Brown says. Every time you call 242-COPS and tell APD something, they log the information into a system that informs where they put their focus in the future, whether they send a patrol car around immediately or not. "We've gotten more into data-driven policing," Brown says. "We're going off evidence that we get from those calls."

That's why APD - in a refrain repeated time and again by Brown and his officers - wants you to call everything remotely suspicious in (or use the reporting feature in the APD app). More data points make for a clearer picture.

When we spoke to your predecessor in October, he said there would be six full-time bicycle cops on the job by the end of 2019. Two for Wells Park, two for West Downtown, and two for the Valley Area Command at large. (Not counting the Downtown Public Safety District officers who are often certified on the bike but are not necessarily full time.) Has that happened?

Yes, Brown says. All six are deployed, but they are not confined to specific areas like Wells Park or West Downtown. It's more accurate to say that they patrol at large, generally on and around Central between the river and I-25, with a special focus on Wells Park and West Downtown. Four of the officers work the day shift, with two on swing shift, he added.

2nd street in Barelas is a popular place for speeders, drag racers, and others who drive recklessly on that straight-shot road, especially between Cesar Chavez and Atlantic. It is particularly bad on weekday mornings and weekends after midnight. What can you do to help?

Brown says he's aware of the problem and has been in touch with the department's motorcycle unit and traffic enforcement unit about increasing enforcement along the road. He says day shift patrols in the area have also gone up. "You're going to see an increase in marked police presence," he says.

Until last summer, the daily arrest record available on the Metropolitan Detention Center’s web site listed the arrested person’s residence. Mug shots were also available up to ten days after the offender's release. But not anymore. This information was helpful for general neighbor awareness and could also potentially help residents help police. Do you know why these changes occurred and if they can be reversed?

Since the MDC is a county rather than a city matter, we posed the question to Candace Hopkins, the jail's spokeswoman. She said the changes are the result of a resolution passed by Bernalillo County commissioners about a year ago meant to prohibit the county from cooperating with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement service (ICE). Immigrant rights groups had been concerned that the feds might be using that online information to help with roundups of undocumented immigrants.

"We have not heard any significant complaints from the public about the changes to these lists," Hopkins said, "except from some attorneys who previously used the list to market their services to potential clients.

Last fall, officers had implemented a new plan for Coronado Park involving two daily visits. One when the park closes at 10 p.m. to make sure nobody is camping and another in the morning to coordinate with solid waste staffers as they open the park and clean up. Is that still going on, and is there anything new in the overall Coronado Park strategy?

That strategy is still in place, Brown says. "We have no plans to change it. It has been extremely successful," he added.

There’s a lot of illegal parking going on in the Raynolds neighborhood, particularly near the new apartment complexes on 9th, roughly between Park and Silver. Cars routinely block driveways, alleys, and sidewalks. Can you address this?

Brown said he would contact his officers at the Downtown Public Safety District as well as the city's parking enforcement authority and see what could be done. He noted that officers are empowered to enforce city parking ordinances, particularly if alleys or driveways are blocked.

Barelas is the only zone we regularly monitor in greater Downtown where crime seems to be trending up (though a quiet January pushed the trendline flatter than we've yet seen it). What are you doing to address this?

"That's one of my targeted areas for increased enforcement," Brown says, agreeing that crime there is slightly above that of the rest of the Valley Area he's in charge of. But he stressed that the increased presence would not be some kind of saturation campaign targeting even minor offenses, but rather an increased focus on problematic houses and violent offenders known to live in the area. "This is going to be more of a data-driven approach," Brown says. "They need to be aware that we know who they are."

There has recently been a series of dumpster fires in Huning Castle, Raynolds, and Barelas. As of a couple of weeks ago, they were under Albuquerque Fire Rescue investigation. We have a fire department for fire, but arson is also a criminal matter, so how does APD get involved with this if at all? 

"That's not something we actually track," Brown says. "It’s AFR’s deal.” 

We’ve heard that APD is teaming up with a social worker to assist with homelessness issues in the city. What’s happening there and how can people get involved?

Part of social worker Xochitl Campos Biggs's job is working with residents and neighborhood associations on issues surrounding homelessness, Brown says (he was delighted to hear about the interest). She can be reached through the Family and Community Services Department at (505) 768-2860 or via xcamposbiggs@cabq.gov. 

Kit Carson Park has a gate that is never closed after the park closes and at times this has resulted in criminal activity occurring in the very dark parking lot. Is APD aware of this situation and what can be done about it?

Brown is aware of the problem but said it's basically a matter for the Parks Department, so we referred the question to city parks spokesman Philip Clelland. He sent this:

Kit Carson is actually not a park that we get calls on very often for criminal activity. That said, we are currently piloting a program at several parks around town that involves having the gates closed nightly and reopened in the morning. At some sites, it is a partnership with city security personnel, and at others it involves a partnership with the neighborhood association. While Kit Carson is not currently one of the pilot sites, it certainly could be considered should this pilot program prove successful."

Tomorrow in the second part of our series: We ask Brown whether bars on windows are worth it, where cars are safest from thieves, how civilians can tell the difference between gunshots and fireworks, and more.
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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