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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ABQ's New Crime Paradigm: City Soaked In Violence Prompts Run On Guns; Analysis, Commentary And Some Outrage 

(Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
The very fabric of Albuquerque seems to be unraveling as a crime wave soaks the city provoking the kind of primal fear you would expect roaming the streets of Sarajevo--not New Mexico's largest city.

The shocking news that citizens are flocking to gun stores to buy arms to protect themselves against an ever bolder class of local criminal reveals for all to see the breathtaking and systemic failure in leadership that has engulfed ABQ and threatens its future as a livable environment.

Like a wildfire, crime is now leaping boundaries that previously served as barriers. The cold-blooded killing of a 60 year old in his driveway by a mob of teens near the normally placid Lomas and Tramway neighborhood was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. It followed closely a series of other alarming crimes and gave us the run on guns and reawakened our instinct for vigilante justice. So how did we get here?

It's about accountability. There is none. It's about apathy. There's too much.

Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry have lost control of events. They have stubbornly refused to implement the sweeping personnel and policy changes so desperately needed at APD to halt the decline in police response times and the collapse in the number of officers patrolling the streets. The criminals get the message. You get a Smith and Wesson for your bedside.

The city council has awakened from a deep slumber but is still napping. There is no passion or fire for the fight that is now so necessary if ABQ is to be rescued from the death spiral it is enduring.

In many ways we have become a community in retreat. In the face of the chaos two city council seats in the October city election go unopposed. The speculation about who might be the next leader of the city barely rises to a murmur. The historic crash in turnout in the 2013 city election now seems more predictive of the future and not a fluke.

Local journalism is failing. How in the name of Billy the Kid can you do a news story about citizens arming themselves out of fear and not interview the mayor, the police chief and the business leadership and ask them what they are doing about it? How? Why do we get sensational TV reports about "Boomerang Thugs" that fault the judiciary but exonerate the leadership of this city, state and APD whose duty it is to keep us safe? Why?

The business community continues to play ostrich and refuses to acknowledge that ABQ's reputation for violence and now racial division is killing us economically. We are the only Sunbelt city not thriving, yet even when the crime extends to the city's most affluent and heavily gated zip codes, the rationalization goes on. "Well, it's not as bad as Detroit or Baltimore." Does the Anglo business community that is Mayor Berry's political base still not see that by turning their heads away from confronting him that they are enabling the city's decline and the decline of their own economic fortunes?

Albuquerque is a city that has learned to live with lower expectations economically and in other ways in exchange for the unique way of life offered here. But that bargain does not include feeling terrified in your home no matter your neighborhood.

I'm older now and sometimes the outrage turns to sadness, even nostalgia. What would leaders like former Mayor Kinney have done? Or Senator Pete Domenici who led the city for a time in the 60's? Did the economic collapse and federal cuts make today's Albuquerque of callousness and indifference inevitable? Or does a passionate, competent leadership make all the difference to a city's fate? We still believe the latter. Albuquerque sorely misses the political ethic of the past. It yearns for leaders who will begin patching the fabric of a city so torn apart. And it waits.

This column is also running in the current edition of the ABQ Free Press on newsstands now. 

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
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