Saturday, October 22, 2005

ALBUQUERQUE BUSINESSES TO PAY EXTRA FOR POLICE PROTECTION

This week it was reported in the Albuquerque Journal that the City has entered into an agreement with owners of seventeen (17) convenience stores. The City found that there is a considerable amount of crime in and about these stores, and the police are too often called out to those locations to respond to crimes in progress or to take reports of crime. These are only a fraction of the total convenience stores in Albuquerque, and someone is quoted as saying that these stores are in bad neighborhoods. What is a “bad neighborhood,” except one in which there is an inordinate amount of crime?

Apparently the City plans to treat these stores differently from “crack houses” and East Central or South Broadway bars, locations which also generate an unusual number of calls for the police. Those bars will be bulldozed, or the owners bought out and the lots turned to uses that are approved by the City. Trees near apartment houses have been cut down by the City, because drug dealers may hide behind the trees and do drug deals.

We may wonder why the police do not simply put more officers in these areas, if there is more crime there that needs attention. Under the agreement, in order to avoid what they consider to be onerous regulation by the City, the store owners will take action to provide greater security for these premises. They will hire security. That is, in addition to utilizing the police protection that is now afforded, the store owners will hire further security officers at the owners’ expense. Thus business people who are operating legitimate businesses are being penalized because crime occurs in their stores or on their store premises. If crime is there, the police ought to be there. Instead of making sure the police are there, to protect and serve, the City sees an opportunity to sell protection.

The store owners have a choice: hire private security guards, or hire APD police to work for the store owners and provide police protection. These APD officers would be off-duty officers of the APD, but they would work for the store owners (for time and a half). They would look, and presumably act, like police officers on duty. They would drive the same cars, wear the same uniforms, carry the same gun and equipment and badge. A citizen would not be able to tell that these officers were not regular police officers, doing their duty protecting and serving. These are officers on “Chief’s Overtime.”

The store owners have a choice. They can hire these officers, or hire private security people. But they must hire one or the other. Which do you think the store owner is going to choose? Which would you choose? There is at least an appearance of impropriety here. It appears that the City is selling protection; or is allowing its off-duty officers to sell protection and mislead the public as to who is their employer. When I see an AKAL security officer, I believe that the officer is working for AKAL and the store owner who hired that security. When I see an APD officer, in uniform and official car and badge, I do not know who that officer is working for.

In the Thirties, protection was sold in the big cities, and the numbers racket was available. Today, protection is sold (although it is by commissioned officers, with the sanction of the City); and the State, yes, the State of New Mexico, runs the numbers game.

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