APD: Property crime down at 2016 Balloon Fiesta

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque police say for the second year in a row, property crimes were down across the city during this year’s Balloon Fiesta.

Officers say they were taking proactive measures where balloonists stayed and ate, too.

Police say the steps they took before and during Fiesta helped to bring down the number of vehicles stolen, by 25 percent.

“I think that speaks volumes to the impact this operation had,” said Lt. Paul Szych. Not only in and around hotels and food chains our balloonists frequent, but in addition, just the general perception and visibility our officers presented in and around establishments throughout the city.”

Szych handles property crime offenses. He says, after two balloons were stolen in 2014, APD stepped up it’s game.

Szych says, last year, their new initiatives reduced property crime by 50-percent in the areas balloonists were eating and sleeping — no vehicles were broken into or stolen. This year, he says the department saw similar stats, and credits initiatives like their bait car program.

“It equated to a balloon not being stolen,” Szych said.

He says taking a proactive approach — increased patrols, surveillance operations and the more than 400 crime prevention packets they handed out — helped to bring down auto theft numbers throughout the city.

Police say they were able to arrest at least six individuals as part of their operations.

Syzch says detectives were monitoring the Sheraton in Uptown when someone approached a nearby vehicle, broke out the window and took items inside. The detective chased after the suspect and police were able to take two individuals into custody and get an arrest warrant for a third.

Syzch says the balloonist got his belongings back that night.

“This is exactly the type of proactive action we feel, back to back years, has benefited us tremendously,” said Szych.

He says, in another instance, officers were able to catch a potentially dangerous man at a Motel 6. He was shooting heroine in a stolen car, in possession of a stolen AK-47.

“We were able to successfully take him into custody and make sure no harm came to our out of town guests,” explained Szych. “We’re beginning to notice the property crime offender and the violent offender are the same offender so, by us taking some of these property crime offenders off the street, we know we’re enhancing, not only safety of property, but safety of lives.”

APD says a partnership with New Mexico’s fraud bureau allowed them to put GPS tracking devices on many balloonists’ trailers. They hope next year, they’ll be able to equip more pilots with the devices.

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