ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With nearly a million people coming into town to see and ride the hot air balloons, the Albuquerque Police Department’s Auto Theft Unit is beefing up security measures to make sure the balloons make it to Balloon Fiesta Park.
Balloonists said it’s the special memories they help create that keeps bringing them back.
“It’s fun to see their faces to see their faces when they do something for the first time, and they’re overwhelmed with the colors and the sights,” said Gordon Emry, a balloon pilot from Nebraska.
But they know making it to Albuquerque doesn’t guarantee that their balloons will make it to Balloon Fiesta Park.
“I personally had experience with having items stolen from my vehicles. I’ve had friends that lost their trailers and lost their vehicles,” said Emry.
In response, APD’s Auto Theft Unit beefed up security measures last year.
“We were able to accomplish a 60 percent reduction in auto theft and auto burglaries,” said Lt. Paul Szych, Albuquerque Police Department.
And this year, APD is doing even more to keep balloonist’s cars and trailers safe.
“In addition to the undercover detectives we have working the details, we also have uniform patrol, we also have video surveillance 24-7,” said Lt. Szych.
APD is also collaborating with the New Mexico Fraud Bureau to put GPS trackers on trailers.
“They’ve actually given us dozens of trackers that we’ve been able to work with the balloonists themselves and implant into the balloons,” said Lt. Szych.
Balloon pilots said you are not just stealing from them, but you are robbing visitors of their once in a lifetime experience of riding in a hot air balloon.
“It’s very much like floating. You are a part of the air, you are the wind,” Emry said.
The new auto theft security measures were very successful last year. No balloons were reported stolen. APD hopes to repeat that success this year, and the department said it focuses efforts in areas with the hotels and restaurants balloonists visit most.