LOS LUNAS — Types of crime fluctuate from year to year when police departments release their annual reports, and that is typical, said Los Lunas Police Chief Naithan Gurule.
Last year, the village saw a 20 percent reduction in crime overall, according to the 2020 annual report released by the Los Lunas Police Department.
In some instances, crime increased in the village. For example, no force burglary had 29 reports in 2019, compared to 2020 when there were 55 reports.
Property crime, in particular, saw the steepest drop with forcible burglary going down from 91 cases to 84 from 2019 to 2020; attempted burglary down from 14 to four; and motor vehicle theft down from 100 overall (including auto, truck and other) to just 63 this past year.
Larceny is one criminal activity that jumped out, though. From 2019 to 2020, larceny reports went down from 415 to 298.
“It’s not shocking that it went down,” Gurule said. “What we do here is every month we have a supervisor meeting, and each supervisor, for his or her squad, has to put together kind of a goal for the month.
“Our two-day shifts have been spending a lot of time at businesses to reduce shoplifting. The effort they’ve put in is starting to show.”
With auto thefts on a downward trend, Gurule said it is due to the auto theft unit the department doing its job. The auto theft unit is a new product for the department, having been created with the help of Lt. Lisa Valenzuela-Medina, who applied for a community policing grant in 2017.
“The year before we had seen stolen vehicles become an issue, so we put together an auto burglary unit,” Gurule said. “That was a positive trend for us.”
Reports of violent crimes, however, increased in some instances. Rape jumped from four cases to seven; robbery by a firearm increased from six to eight, and robbery by a cutting instrument went from zero to two.
The LLPD saw the number of assaults decrease in two areas. Assault by firearm went down from 40 to 20, and assault by strong-arm went down from 114 reports to 29. Other types of assault, such as simple assault, increased from 107 to 149.
Gurule said a lot of these violent crime offenders aren’t always residents of Los Lunas and Valencia County, but from Albuquerque.
“What we are seeing here is violent crime overall throughout the state is having some changes in numbers,” Gurule said. “It seems like the offenders in a lot of these crimes are coming down from Albuquerque.”
While burglary, for the most part, trended down, burglary by no force increased by nearly double from 29 reports in 2019 to 55 in 2020.
LLPD Deputy Chief Vince Torres said surveillance over the year has shown a steady increase in groups going from home to home checking for unlocked car doors to commit no force burglary.
“We’ve actually seen surveillance where groups of individuals will just walk up and down a block and try the door handles on each of the vehicles that they come in contact with,” Torres said. “The minute one pops open … that is the crime of opportunity. They’ll jump in the vehicle and take whatever they can and then move onto a different neighborhood and basically do the exact same thing.”
To help identify those thieves scouring neighborhoods, Gurule said the department has been using more unmarked units to patrol neighborhoods so this type of no force burglary isn’t as prevalent.
The number of people arrested for driving under the influence increased from 75 in 2019 to 88 in 2020.
“Those numbers are up and down,” Gurule said. “We have a DWI unit that consists of two officers and that’s their whole job, to get drunk drivers off the street. That can be one of the reasons we see an increase. I’m always happy to see that we are out there making arrests for that, as it is important to our safety.”
As for what the department expects in 2021, Gurule said it is to focus on key areas such as auto theft, burglary and property crimes.
“We are still going to focus on our auto vehicle theft and our burglaries,” Gurule said. “So we are going to really make an effort to reduce our property crime and just really try to do our best to handle things we can control.”