Downtown businesses want, need new policing efforts

In its quest to critique our efforts to make the city center safe, the Journal should at least speak to those of us who have asked for new ideas and worked with the city and ODA to target limited resources toward the fight. against crime. Public safety is the most important issue we cover, and it should be treated as such by the city’s leading newspaper. Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina listened. Today, business leaders join together again in support of a solution to a problem that affects us all. The June 28 editorial criticizing TEAM, Targeted Enforcement and Active Monitoring, undermines efforts to make downtown a safer and more vibrant space.

The goal of this new police overtime program is to more effectively complement crime-fighting efforts. Downtown needs more police presence during rush hour; this is not news. APD manages officers between six area commands and has already introduced additional patrols and dedicated officers downtown. It’s a huge help for us. The goal of TEAM for us and for the whole community is to do more because we want to do more. Some downtown business owners hire private security services for their stores and locations – that’s great, but it’s too expensive for many and there’s a big difference between a security guard protecting your location and a trained officer protecting the entire area.

TEAM allows us to pool resources and allows officers to choose to help downtown after their regular shifts are over, rather than leaving their department. Unlike security guards, these officers can make arrests and are highly trained to handle the variety of incidents that can be seen on a Saturday night. Today, a group of businesses and organizations concerned about our downtown have invested $90,000 to launch the program. At the start of this program, it was downtown stakeholders with considerable resources such as PNM and owners of several properties that came together to create the fund, not the smaller storefronts. Of course, we want as many downtown stakeholders as possible to participate as we move forward, and indeed others have already committed to join us. But to be clear, no one is required to contribute; the advantage will always be there. Officers participating in TEAM will not protect individual businesses, they will enforce downtown laws during peak hours.

This concept is nothing new. We’ve done this downtown before. Years ago companies came together to create a fund to do something very similar. And cities like San Antonio, Dallas, Atlanta and DC are doing the same. This is not a new concept for APD either. For years, the “Chef’s Overtime” program allowed ODA officers to police big-box stores at the stores’ expense.

TEAM reconfigures this program in a much more reasonable way. Security companies guarding big-box stores will now use their own staff for the job, and trained APD officers will go where there’s a greater need and greater public focus: downtown. Local businesses, event organizers and city neighborhoods are also using the overtime program and will continue to do so.

The “bidding war” the editorial speculates about would never take place. These costs are fixed and groups using the overtime program are in contact with DPA about available hours.

Finally, we read the Journal daily and respect it as a reasonable voice of the city. But when it comes to public safety, you have to be much more careful. These programs fundamentally involve our police officers, our livelihoods, and the personal safety of thousands of people who work, live, and visit downtown. Offhand references to the “crowd” and grossly misleading speculation, with no attempt to contact the companies involved or the city…do not serve the public interest and should be well below the editorial board’s professional standards.

David H. Henry