LOS LUNAS — The Los Lunas Police Chief said he perceives property crimes have increased in the village, but a change in the department’s reporting system makes the overall 2020 and 2021 crime count nearly incomparable.
“It’s hard to say now, but I can tell you through my professional opinion, property crime is on the rise,” LLPD chief Frank Lucero said. “I think property crime is on the rise not only across the county here in Valencia, but across the state and also nationally. All you have to do is watch the news and you see these offenders committing these property crimes.
In 2021, 443 shoplifting and theft offenses along with 37 arrests were reported in the village, according to the department’s crime statistics. This is an increase from the 298 offenses reported in 2020.
Lucero said the increase in shoplifting he and his team are seeing in the village is partly due to large retailers cracking down on protecting their assets, taking better notice of what is being taken away from them.
“Harbor Freight, for example, contacted us and they were able to provide a list of all the property that was stolen and the dollar amount is astronomical – you’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars,” Lucero said.
Before businesses became more aware of what’s both in-store and shoplifted, Lucero said this increase doesn’t necessarily mean that this type of property crime hasn’t happened in the world. pass.
“I’ve observed in the past that often some of these businesses don’t even call to report every case of shoplifting or property crime,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean these crimes aren’t happening, they just aren’t being reported to the police department.”
In order to deter the commission of property crimes, LLPD officers conduct daily visits to local businesses.
“Not only is it a deterrent effect by the physical presence of the officers, but it increases that contact with the officers and the management, the employees of these companies,” Lucero said. “Let’s hope that even improving communication can do a lot.”
The department is also in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office to be part of the Retail Organized Crime Task Force and assist in undercover operations with department stores. in and around the Albuquerque metro area.
In addition to an increase in calls for property crimes and shoplifting, Lucero said his officers are also seeing these crimes associated with other serious offenses, such as threatening violence or assault.
According to annual reports, 70 cases of aggravated assault occurred in 2020, compared to 116 reported in 2021.
“Not only do they shoplift at these large retailers, but they sometimes brandish and threaten staff members with weapons,” the chief said. “Another thing is that we see more of these crimes being committed in stolen vehicles, so it is more difficult for law enforcement to trace the vehicle used in the commission of the crime to identify them.”
Under the old crime reporting system, the Uniform Crime Summary Report or UCR, not all offenses committed in the same incident were reflected in the report. Lucero said that’s what makes the FBI’s new reporting system, NIBRS, or National Incident Based Reporting System, more accurate.
“The UCR system used a hierarchy rule, so when you had a particular incident that involved a single person committing many different crimes in a specific incident, you see we only report the most serious offense of all. these offences,” Lucero said. “With the NIBRS, this person committing multiple offenses with one incident, we get all of those incidents reported.”
The system change results in an increase in perceived crime across the board when looking strictly at annual reports compared to 2020 vs. 2021.
Lucero said he wants the community to understand that there are many moving parts that drive the crime numbers the public sees in every annual report, and that shouldn’t be the only thing to consider when you’re trying to understand the level of crime within a community. .
“You can see the limitation of this statistical data to allow you to accurately assess crime in a community,” the chief said. “These are some of the weaknesses that have used this data, and I caution everyone, but it really only gives a ballpark figure.”