Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller is pressuring business owners to foot the bill for a greater police presence in the crime-infested Downtown area.
“The challenge is we are in a resource-constrained environment,” Keller claimed at a press conference Tuesday, as reported objectively and without question by The Albuquerque Journal. “What we are announcing today Downtown is that we are going to do something very different. We are going to treat Downtown, essentially, like a neighborhood that has an acute crime problem.”
The new “TEAM” (an acronym for “Targeted Enforcement Action Monitoring” that only government bureaucrats could come up with) calls on Downtown businesses to foot the bill for basic city services like police protection.
“Now I want to mention not all of the businesses are supporting this. We want them to, we need them to. We have enough funding to get started and try this out this summer. That’s all the funding we have. But we hope we’re going to demonstrate how important this is and then we’ll get enough funding to run this year round.”–Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller
The irony isn’t lost on residents.
Taxes already pay for police protection, or at least they’re supposed to. The fact that Downtown has become a hotbed of criminality is not the fault of local business owners, some of which already pay out of pocket for private security because the mayor has issued a stand-down order for police on most misdemeanor crimes across the city.
But the real rub is in claiming there’s no funding for more police, that the city is “resource-constrained” (more government-speak), and that crime is somehow a “shared responsibility” that businesses need to pay extra for.
As the Rio Grande Foundation pointed out, the City of Albuquerque just increased its annual budget by 20%. Three million is going to free bussing. Another $250,000 was just approved by the City Council as a donation to Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile, city officials claim the $90,000 received so far in private donations from local businesses will only keep the new “TEAM” funded through the summer. They did not address, nor apparently did the local press inquire about, why the $142 million in additional General Fund spending couldn’t be dedicated to Downtown security.
The mayor says he wants to treat Downtown “like a neighborhood that has an acute crime problem.” Crime is up across the city. Murders are on track to set record for the third year running. There are plenty of neighborhoods in Albuquerque with “acute crime problems,” and yet none of the residents in those neighborhoods are being asked to make private donations for the police presence their tax dollars are already intended to provide.
Blaming businesses for operating Downtown is like blaming residents for living in a bad part of town–areas made more dangerous not by any factor other than the failure of city leaders to recruit police, dispatch resources, and stop crime, as is their obligation.
Governments are tasked with providing for the general welfare of their constituents. Public safety is, always has been, and always will be at the top of that list of priorities. To claim “resource constraints” at a time when government spending increased 20% is a lie, pure and simple. Keller and the Albuquerque City Council simply didn’t prioritize Downtown in the latest city budget. Crime has gotten so out of control that an already over-funded police department can’t recruit enough officers to keep the streets safe. Rather than taking responsibility for their failures, they’re shifting the blame to the people who are trying to make a living.
Putting the onus of public safety on business owners is the epitome of failed leadership. It constitutes a double-tax for implied privilege that would not be foisted upon individual neighborhoods, no matter how “acute” their crime problems. And it stands as yet another example where the mayor of Albuquerque has scapegoated criminality as a funding problem despite all of the evidence to the contrary.