Violent crime within the city of Las Cruces has risen 22% within the last year, according to a new quarterly report from the Las Cruces Police Department.
Since 2020, robberies within the city have increased by 61%. LCPD Police Chief Miguel Dominguez says that many of the robberies have centered around personal disputes, with around a quarter being drug related.
“Typically, you think robberies and people think of convenience stores and banks being held up,” Dominguez said. “Only four involved an establishment. Many of the rest of those are other types of robberies…45% of those who are the victim actually knew the suspect.”
While the number of robberies and aggravated assaults have increased, criminal homicides in Las Cruces have fallen 13%. The number of residential burglaries also decreased this year from 214 reports in 2020 to 159 in 2021. Other areas, such as vehicle burglaries, have risen significantly, a crime Dominguez says increases whenever college is in session.
“Auto burglaries jumps off the page at 25%,” Dominguez said. “We know that 63% of these occurred in apartments and residences. We know that there's possibly crews that are working. Throughout the night we’ll have twelve or thirteen auto burglaries happen on the same street.”
LCPD Deputy Chief Paul Brock says the department is employing a multitude of strategies to combat crime, including community policing initiatives and online reporting.
“What we're talking about is working hand in hand with our community partnership officers and community outreach officers,” Brock said. “On a normal day-to-day basis, patrol and community outreach are working projects together. They're sharing intel together. They're checking statuses, they're getting information from the intel section, identifying problematic areas, issues that are going on, different crime trends and then they're working hand in hand with each other.”
Addressing the current personnel shortage is also top of mind for the LCPD—currently, only 172 commissioned officer positions out of a possible 202 are filled, up from approx. 150 last May. LCPD Sgt. Cody Austin says the LCPD has received over 700 applications, noting he is optimistic the personnel shortage won’t last long.
“Currently we're in the polygraph stage of the hiring process,” Austin said. “And of the remaining 45, 64% of those applicants do have some type of formal college education as well. So, in short, we're very optimistic about the upcoming academy in January of 2022 by being able to fill the 25 slots, even up to 30 if possible.”
Austin says LCPD in-service training efforts go beyond the 677 hours required by the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy. The 1,081 hours required by the LCPD also includes training elements that address realistic de-escalation and fair and impartial policing.