Most NM police departments fail to report crime data, LFC analysts say

State can’t examine timely information on trends and patterns

By: - July 22, 2022 5:00 am

The Albuquerque Police Department, along with most police departments in New Mexico, is not reporting crime data to the FBI database. (Photo by Shelby Wyatt / Source NM)

Less than one-third of police departments in New Mexico are following state law that requires them to deliver crime numbers to the N.M. Department of Public Safety, lawmakers learned Wednesday.

Under state statute, every police department must turn in reports to the state Department of Public Safety. The state’s centralized system has been in place since 2008 and feeds into the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System.

None of the police departments are exempt from the law, and the issue has been brought up by legislative analysts before, at least twice in 2018.

But only 35 police departments are reporting. Twenty-nine were in a 6-month testing period where the FBI was ensuring the numbers are accurate, and 51 were not reporting, according to DPS info cited in a report produced by Legislative Finance Committee staff.

This has the effect of leaving New Mexico without timely data on statewide crime trends, the committee’s analysts wrote.

Lawmakers reviewed the report during a meeting Wednesday inside the Miller Library at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, and one senator asked about why the data still isn’t getting to where it needs to be.

“I just want to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure this data gets across to where it needs to go, so you can collaborate,” said Sen. Nancy Rodriguez (D-Santa Fe). She asked why departments are not submitting the data.

The two largest police agencies in New Mexico, the Albuquerque Police Department and the New Mexico State Police, are not reporting to the FBI database “due to changes in their records management systems,” the LFC wrote.

The state is working with APD “to bring them into the testing phase” and expects to start testing with State Police when their new system goes live in December, the LFC wrote.

As part of the crime package signed into law this year, police could lose money if they do not comply with the reporting requirements already in state law.

The money at stake is held in the Law Enforcement Protection Fund and can be used to buy any kind of “law enforcement equipment” including guns, surveillance, vehicles, uniforms, belts, badges, computers, printers, phones, training manuals and classes, conference expenses and police dogs.

Police accountability database stripped out of crime package

The crime package provides the Department of Public Safety with $100,000 every year to help local police departments meet the reporting requirements.

Secretary for the Department of Public Safety Jason Bowie said State Police records and computer assisted dispatch systems are “antiquated.”

“We are implementing changes there,” Bowie said, “and we have a new system that’s going to be online in December.”

He said once they get it online, the FBI must certify it, which will further delay the process into 2023.

“We will hopefully be successful online with the system in December, and after the certification process, hope to be online six months after that,” Bowie said.

But Rodriguez asked about all the other police departments, as well as the prosecutors, public defenders, jails and prisons.

“Is there any way to get all of those parties connected?” she asked. “‘Cause we have a lot of disconnect, obviously, and we need to be connected together for communication and data consolidation.”

Ellen Rabin, one of the authors of the report, said DPS is working with local police departments to get them to report the data.

She also told Rodriguez that another law passed in 2019 requires all of the various agencies in the criminal legal system to get together with the same information.

Under that 2019 law, the state Sentencing Commission, which advises the government on the criminal legal system, is required to create a network to share data with local Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils, panels of the highest-ranking judicial and police officials in each judicial district.

“That is in progress but it is definitely difficult,” Rabin said. “It is a big lift. There’s a lot of different people, a lot of different systems, and different levels of willingness to share their data.”

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.

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