Burglaries are up in Belen, Los Lunas; down in county, BF and Peralta


Burglaries in Belen and Los Lunas are up while other property crimes are generally down from 2011, according to crime statistics compiled from Valencia County law enforcement agencies.

In Los Lunas, burglaries more than doubled in 2012, and those incidents rose by 17 in the city of Belen.

By contrast, property crimes in the unincorporated areas of Valencia County took a sharp dive in the categories of larcenies, auto theft and commercial and residential burglaries.

The number of burglaries in the unincorporated areas of Valencia County went down by 284 incidents from 2011 to 2012. Numbers from 2012 show almost 340 less larceny incidents occurred than the year before. Auto thefts went down also — from 167 in 2011 to 115 in 2012.

Detectives' arrests solved "a number" of burglaries from tips gathered from suspects that may be linked to other crimes.

"We have been doing a lot with Neighborhood Watch programs," said Valencia County Sheriff Louis Burkhard. "We attend meetings, we do community education and talk with them about how not be a victim."

Burkhard said he wants to start a tip line so residents in Valencia County can report crimes.

"I just need someone to monitor that and do a better job of analysis so that we can get a real good picture of where problems are," Burkhard said.

He said criminals are "opportunists," and that trends in property crimes move from one area to another within the county. The sheriff said property crimes are interrelated with narcotics activity.

"We just did this big drug bust in Meadow Lake and it was a culmination of seven months of investigation with the Region Taskforce," Burkhard said. "We identified 13 targets that were trafficking in narcotics."

The sheriff said one deputy is assigned to a taskforce with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that gives the department access to law enforcement at the federal level. Federal officers sometimes help assist deputies in Valencia County on certain cases.

In Los Lunas, burglaries doubled in 2012 with 168 incidents. In 2011, that number was 79.

"It's due to the downturn in the economy," Melnick said. "A lot more people are still unemployed. They have to feed their families and the bad guys have to buy their drugs."

Forcible entries were up by 81 incidents in 2012 from the previous year. Melnick said people are looking for "a "quick smash and grab" to take desirable items.

He said the department started a promotional campaign, "Lock Your Car. Take Your Keys. Hide Your Belongings," to try to remind residents to secure their belongings from theft.

He said the department's "Text a Tip" program is catching on with residents, who are reporting more crimes. Melnick said tips from the program helped in the arrests of five suspects who police believe were involved with the Christmas Day burglary at Walmart.

Crimes such as larcenies are slightly down in Los Lunas, with seven less incidents, and auto thefts are down by 38 incidents from 2011.

"Our presence within neighborhoods and business districts has reduced (auto thefts)," Melnick said.

He said his officers are committed to curbing property crimes in 2013 and listed the arrests of the Walmart burglary suspects as an example of good police work being done in the village.

"They are doing an excellent job," the Los Lunas police chief said.

In Belen, burglaries are slightly up — 251 in 2012 compared with 234 the previous year.

Belen Police Chief Dan Robb said he is "pretty happy" with an overall decrease in the number of property crimes.

"There are so many factors on why crime goes up and down," Robb said. "There's not any one thing. There could be influences that could cause a spike or, on the other side of it, a decrease."

He said an influence may be the improving economy, but not "a 100 percent" reason. Robb said police officers change their strategy if they see more crime happening in a particular neighborhood.

In 2012, larcenies were down in Belen by 92 incidents from 2011. Auto thefts were also down 34 compared to 40 vehicles stolen in 2011.

Robb said although numbers are good for 2012, residents need to practice good habits of keeping valuables out of plain view when it comes to their vehicles.

"I wish we could get it down to zero," Robb said. "If we can't get it down to zero, we want to get it down to a reasonable number."

Property crimes in Bosque Farms and Peralta are almost nonexistent with numbers below 30 incidents in each of the three categories.

Bosque Farms had a slight decrease in overall burglaries from 19 in 2011 to 15 incidents last year.

Peralta had 28 burglaries in 2012, two less than the year before. There were three auto thefts in 2012, a category that read zero in 2011. Thefts of vehicles in Peralta remained the same for both years at two.

There were seven more larcenies in Bosque Farms with a total of 12 last year. In Peralta, there was three less last year with nine total incidents.

"There were residents here in the Farm that thought the world was coming to end because we had 19 residential burglaries," said Bosque Farms Police Chief Greg Jones. "If you said that to any surrounding community, they'd be very happy."

Jones said he attributes low property crimes with quick response times and heavy patrols of Bosque Farms and Peralta.

He said officers have recovered firearms burglaries from incidents that may have happened in other jurisdictions.

Jones credits his officers who have been able to solve most crimes in the area — a deterrent for people to commit other crimes.

The police chief said the village has implemented a email alert system for the chief to inform the public of crime trends.

Jones said his department has gotten the message across to residents who may have not locked their doors or protected valuables in the past.

"(People are) more aware that crime happens no matter where you live," he said.

-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.