By Carlos Padilla
More than two dozen incidents of property crime have been reported to the Truth or Consequences Police Department (TCPD) over the course of the past few weeks. TCPD officials, including uniformed officers and detectives, have responded to, investigated and taken reports for 26 separate incidents since the beginning of October.
On Monday, Dec. 1, TCPD officials told The Herald that among the complaints of property crimes, officials have received information of 14 burglaries citywide, nine incidents of auto burglaries throughout the community, and three reported incidents of breaking and entering into buildings located on Grape Street, Broadway, and Marshal Street.
TCPD Detective George Lee stated Monday afternoon that a reported incident does not always necessarily mean a completed criminal act took place, but that each incident is documented and investigated as if it is a legitimate crime.
A number of these apparent crimes are under investigation at this time, Detective Lee stated.
Detective Lee characterized the vast majority of the recent rash in property crimes as appearing to be crimes of opportunity, adding that the biggest contributor to the elevated level of these sorts of crimes is complacency of property owners about their own property. Unlocked doors and unsecured windows to homes and vehicles appear to be a reoccurring factor in too many of the recent reports taken by city police officers.
That’s not victim-blaming; it’s simply a recurring theme noted by local law enforcement authorities responding to the complaints of recent property crimes.
TCPD Detective James Harrington told The Herald that the recent increase may be attributed to the fact that the items reported as stolen in recent weeks include higher-dollar items, such as expensive electronics as well as firearms.
Detective Harrington added that property crime historically goes hand in hand with substance abuse issues.
The detectives stated that, in their experience, reports of property crime come in cycles, depending on who is presently incarcerated and who has been released.
“These typically are crimes of opportunity, and almost always involves the usual suspects,” Detective Lee stated.
Lee added that if property owners were more proactive about securing their personal property, locking doors and securing windows, the community would likely see a reduction in property crime by approximately 50 percent. Lee encourages owners to invest in a safe to protect their firearms.
“It is also critical to record serial numbers and photograph items,” Lee said about electronics and firearms, to aide in the identification of items.
“Once a firearm is stolen, in fact the moment it is stolen, it is in the hands of a criminal,” Lee added.
The detectives stated that all incidents of suspicious activity must be reported to authorities, allowing officers to check out a situation and hopefully intercept a potential criminal act ahead of time. Locals may dial 911 or call the police department locally at (575) 894-1204 or –after hours– (575) 894-7111.
Social media has been abuzz recently regarding this most recent boost in property crimes, with residents taking to Facebook to air their frustration at being victimized by thieves, and to provide information to others in the community. Some residents have taken to patrolling their neighborhoods, contacting neighbors to set up a Neighborhood Watch-type of network, forming a Facebook page to report the latest suspicious activity to the benefit of others in the community, and even looking into forming groups to become a part of the National Neighborhood Watch program.
TCPD detectives encourage citizen involvement as far as being vigilant and reporting to law enforcement officials when warranted, but warn residents against confronting individuals deemed suspicious or dangerous, or from taking vigilante-style action.
“There are three functions of law enforcement,” said Detective Lee, adding that they are prevention –encouraging residents to lock doors and secure windows to vehicles and buildings– as well as deterring criminal activity by conducting uniformed patrols in marked vehicles, and by making arrests.
“Because of the number of reported burglaries, we are almost always operating in the third function – making arrests,” Lee stated. “But we need help in the Prevention department. We can’t lock your doors for you.”
Local authorities regularly receive pawn reports from business that provide a list of items recently pawned, including serial numbers associated with items.
“We can’t seem to keep the bad guys in jail, and are fighting a revolving door,” Detective Lee stated.
Low bond amounts, apparently lenient conditions of release and other factors throughout the State of New Mexico as well as locally typically translate to an ongoing problem when it comes to property crimes and other crimes, according to many law enforcement officials interviewed over the years by this reporter.
“Police are the public, and the public are the police,” Lee summarized, adding that the fight against crime requires a team effort. In fact, officers cannot be everywhere. Local law enforcement authorities depend upon citizens reporting incidents of suspicious activity to assist officials in deterring a criminal act before it takes place as well as reporting whatever they may know after the fact to ensure an arrest may be made.