ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s no secret Albuquerque’s crime problem is out of control. A lot of the people feeling the brunt of it are the workers at businesses around the city who keep getting terrorized by armed robbers.
Two months ago, a worker at Circle K shot a suspected armed robber.
“I thought I was going to lose my life, I thought that there was no way I was ever going to see my family, my children, anything again,” said Jennifer Wertz, a former Circle K clerk.
One month ago, a suspected armed robber shot a worker at a different Circle K.
“He literally reached out the window and shot right at me,” Assistant Manager James Bride said.
Since then, there have been countless close calls, like one just last week at Honeycomb Smoke Shop.
“He told me to get on my hands and knees and put my head on the ground,” manager Samantha Fenolio said.
Cases like those go to Albuquerque Police Department’s armed robbery unit. Adam Perea is one of its five detectives.
“Because that’s what I specialize in, it’s my biggest problem but overall, for the citizens, I think it’s a big issue here,” Det. Perea said.
He said the unit has seen more serial robbers than ever this year, the same crooks hitting up multiple businesses.
For example, consider Robert Martinez. Police say surveillance video shows him making out with cash from a Blake’s Lotaburger.
Since a car chase ended with his arrest in March, a grand jury indicted Martinez on nearly 70 charges, including 22 counts of either armed robbery or attempted armed robbery.
Police said he hit the top spots reporting robberies this year.
APD data shows in the first eight months of the year, the Subway on Montgomery and San Pedro had the most armed robberies in the city with 10. That’s more than once a month.
The owner told KRQE News 13 that she’s been in the Subway system for 15 years, and it’s never been like it has been this year.
Subway on San Mateo near Osuna ranked second with nine. The list is made up of, mostly, fast food spots in northeast Albuquerque.
“It’s the biggest area, holds the most retail,” Det. Perea said.
They’re also on major roads like Menaul and San Mateo.
“Those areas attract a lot of attention. It’s easier to get to the freeway, that type of thing,” Det. Perea said.
APD said it’s been working with businesses that robbers are targeting, giving them tips.
“For example, the coverings on windows, we see one business that doesn’t have coverings on windows and they rarely get robbed and they have maybe the little maze to get to the register, along with multiple employees all the time,” Perea said.
One owner said she tried adding more lights outside and keeping less cash inside, but the robbers keep coming. Police said it’s a sign of Albuquerque’s drug problem.
“Heroin is the big one around here, on occasion meth, but heroin seems to be the larger push.”
It’s got business owners and employees pushing for change.
“In the last four to five months, it’s just.. It’s turned into hell,” James Bride told KRQE News 13 last month, after he was shot by a suspected armed robber. “This is… it’s out of control.”
The armed robbery unit said it works closely with the FBI and ATF to move cases into the federal system whenever possible because that can often mean more time behind bars for criminals.
That way, they’re not getting right back out and committing the same crimes.