KRQE Poll: Most Albuquerque residents willing to pay more in taxes to recruit, retain police officers


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With the mayoral election inching closer, the biggest topic on the minds of citizens and candidates is crime. Now, a KRQE News 13 poll shows to what lengths the majority of voters are willing to go to curb the increasing problem.

As of Wednesday, the Albuquerque Police Department has 847 officers with 43 set to graduate from its 119th academy class in December.

APD has struggled in recent years to get its number of officers to 1,000, where it’s supposed to be. As more come into the academy, an almost equal amount leave for various reasons, namely retirement.

“As your next mayor I’m going to make this a very, very difficult place to be a criminal,” then-candidate, now-Mayor Richard J. Berry said on the campaign trail back in 2009.

Here we are, eight years later, with eight candidates using the same rhetoric. Crime is a major problem: from car thefts to home invasions, to innocent bystanders being killed.

According to the results of a KRQE News 13 poll directed at voters ahead of the mayoral election, the majority of citizens – 57 percent – are willing to pay more in taxes specifically to increase the salaries of police officers in order to attract more people to APD’s ranks.

The percent opposed was 23, while 20 percent were undecided on the matter.

“Let’s fully staff this police department [and] pay officers a competitive salary,” APD Union President Shaun Willoughby told KRQE News 13 back in March.

Willoughby’s approach to recruiting more officers aligns with the majority’s willingness to, in theory, pay more to have more police.

KRQE News 13 sat down with Gabe Sanchez, UNM political science professor, for his thoughts on the poll results. He says the willingness of the public to pay more in taxes is surprising, but clearly specific.

“I think it’s an indicator of just how savvy, I think, the voters of Albuquerque are and really, how much they want to see the crime issue really move in a different direction,” he said.

Professor Sanchez says despite this being a non-partisan race, these results could have an interesting impact on the campaign promises from Republican candidates now that they know the majority supports a tax increase.

Long-time District 1 City Councilor Ken Sanchez, however, says the numbers are not at all shocking.

“I think everybody is now very very concerned about public safety in the city,” the councilor said.

Prompted by the growing crime problem, KRQE News 13 reached out to the councilor because he is co-sponsoring a bill to fund a study every five years that would calculate the number of officers Albuquerque has, versus the number of officers the city needs, along with how to recruit more.

Raising taxes, however, isn’t Councilor Sanchez’s first choice on tackling the issue.

“I think it would probably go to the voters,” he said. “…If it does come to a tax increase. But again, I just hope our economy continues to grow and we can avoid any tax increase.”

The poll also asked another question on the same topic. Between police, judges, and the DA’s Office, “to improve Albuquerque’s crime rate, who needs to do a better job?”  The majority said all of the above, while “judges” got the most singular votes.

Stay tuned as KRQE News 13 continues to release the results of its mayoral election poll this week and next, at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Polling Methodology & Results

For this poll, a sample of likely households was chosen from the population registered to vote in the city of Albuquerque for a “hybrid” automated (for landlines)/live (for cell phones) poll, where 74 percent of the phone numbers were landlines and 26 percent of the phone numbers were cell phones. There were 500 completed responses to 11 poll questions.

The survey was conducted August 26-27. The margin of error, with a 95 percent confidence interval, was 4.4 percent. The party registration of respondents was 52-34 percent Democratic/Republican (14 percent Independents). The geographic breakdown of the respondents was as follows: 52 percent from northeast Albuquerque, 19 percent from northwest Albuquerque, 22 percent from southeast Albuquerque, and 7 percent from southwest Albuquerque (The dividing lines for these four quadrants of Albuquerque are the (east/west) Rio Grande and (north/south) Interstate 40).

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