As Albuquerque climbs toward a record murder rate for 2021, it’s easy to lose track of everything that these statistics mean.
The police tally homicides by date, case number, and address, and every three days there’s a new entry.
On Sunday there were two.
I knew one of them.
I know his family. I know his mom. There are no words to describe the pain in her eyes. I won’t attempt to.
At the current pace of one every three days, Albuquerque will surpass 2020’s murder rate of 76 by mid-August. We saw a 75% increase in homicides in the first three months of 2021 compared to January through March of 2020, far surpassing all but one of our neighboring cities. El Paso’s murder rate increased 150% in that timeframe but remains less than half Albuquerque’s. Denver increased 57%, Phoenix 3%, Dallas 24%, Fort Worth 8%, and Oklahoma City 14%, according to a Major Cities Chiefs Association report.
We don’t even have it the worst. Portland, Ore., has seen a thousand percent increase in murders in the first three months of 2021 compared to 2020, while places like Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, DC, have such high murder rates already that their increases were relatively small by comparison.
You couldn’t remember all of their names if you tried.
This is the reality of city life. Gruesome violence is a twice-weekly news report that lasts no more than 20 seconds, most never heard of again, because the vast majority are never solved.
We live in anonymity, desensitized to the violence, angry at the empty promises versus the stark reality. Our city seems to be unraveling. The future we are leaving to our children looks bleak. And our leaders are more worried about putting social workers on the beat than cops.
But that’s the political side of violence.
The human side is the family in mourning across the street. It’s the stories they’re sharing about their boy, his humor and heart, his passions and quirks. They say “remember the time” and they cry, because that is all they have.
There will be no new memories. No talks. No hugs. No dinners.
They play over and over in their heads the last conversations they had, what they said, what they could have said.
They say, “He would have loved this.” And he would have. He would have sat right there.
On the city’s weekly homicide report, he’s case #21–0043477. To the citizens of Albuquerque who never knew him, he’s victim number 51. But he was also a brother. A son. A friend.
Rest In Peace, Joe.