There's a war being waged here in Albuquerque... Ok, so war may be too strong a word but we liked the alliteration and weekend isn't exactly accurate either unless you consider Wednesday through Saturday the weekend. The battles are taking place downtown and there are 8 to 10 of them every night.
Albuquerque's downtown area between the railroad tracks and 8th Street has become an entertainment district through the efforts of the city, the Downtown Action Team, developers, and business owners. It's become like any number of urban entertainment districts around the country. And like many of them Downtown Albuquerque has become a magnet for crime.
Our Eyes tell us that there are 8 to 10 incidents every night between Wednesday and Saturday. To handle the volume of nefarious night time activity, APD has SWAT, K-9, and mounted patrol complete with 4 mounted officers and a sergeant. In addition, they will add DWI and traffic when necessary.
That's a lot of police presence for a relatively small area of town. But with the high number of incidents in the area even with APD's show of force, it's probably justified.
Of course the police presence is visible - it's meant to be. Besides it's kind of hard to hide a horse. Visibility is important - it keeps the honest, honest and it makes criminals work harder to find their victims.
Recently, that visibility has come under fire and the Almighty Alcalde has ordered APD to reduce their visibility somewhat. The new rules for downtown patrol include dictate that officers are never to walking more than two abreast and not to parking within one block north or south of Central.
At first glance one might think that the new rules don't seem too burdensome. Let's be honest, the walking two abreast thing is just plain silly. However, forcing officers to park their vehicles over a block away is dangerous. In an emergency officers must run to their vehicles to access their life-saving equipment - which doesn't seem to matter either unless you are the one in need of that assistance.
There's little doubt that Albuquerque's Downtown entertainment corridor needs the police protection - the question is should the City of Albuquerque be providing the additional services for free and at the expense of the safety of those who live in the Valley Command?
Right now, Downtown is the priority for the Valley Command. If officers are unavailable for Downtown duty due to training, illness, or vacation, they're taken from field services. That means if you live in the Valley you're the second priority and will have to wait longer when there are force deficiencies Downtown.
Many of the bars around town have additional police protection. The difference is that these officers are paid for by those establishments through Chief's Overtime. The cost for Downtown's additional security rests squarely on the shoulders of the tax payers and at the expense of Valley residents.
There's got to be a better solution. The taxpayers of the valley pay for service that they're not receiving, while the Central entertainment district gets premium protection at no additional expense. Not to mention the fact that the politicians on the 11th floor should not be getting involved at all in how that additional service is provided.
It's a tough problem to solve. Downtown represents everything the city is trying to do. It's an urban environment where people can live, work, and play. It's also an environment where crime is a problem and protecting the public has become a political function rather than a law enforcement endeavor.
What we can tell you is that the Downtown area should not be the determining factor in the force structure of the entire command, the people living in the Valley should not be put at risk because of the Downtown area, and politicians should stay out of how the police do their jobs.