Number of homicides in county increases in 2012

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The number of homicides in Valencia County doubled in 2012, and the number assaults in every municipality rose with the exception of Bosque Farms and Peralta, according to crime statistics compiled by local law enforcement agencies.

The statistics, which are made up of incidents that involve violent crimes, show a total of six homicides in Valencia County in 2012, two in Belen, two in Bosque Farms and two in the unincorporated areas of the county.

In 2011, there were three homicides in Valencia County total — all in the unincorporated area.

In Bosque Farms, homicides went from zero in 2011 to two incidents last year. The two homicides were separate incidents that were related to domestic violence.

Bosque Farms Police Chief Greg Jones said homicides and other violent crimes are unpredictable and hard to prevent.

Other violent crimes in Bosque Farms were slightly up. But there were six total incidents that involved violent crimes in 2012. In 2011, that number was three.

"It's very important for our residents to understand that both of our homicides (in Bosque Farms) were domestic violence-type crimes," Jones said. "Both were contained within one household."

Jones said 2012 was an "unusual year" for violent crimes since the last homicide in the village was in 2003. Before that, the last homicide on the books happened in the 1990s.

In the unincorporated areas of Valencia County, homicides decreased by one incident from three in 2011 to two in 2012.

Valencia County Sheriff Louis Burkhard said homicides usually occur in the moment rather than something that is planned out.

Assaults went up by 23 incidents and robberies were cut in half last year.

In 2012, there were 293 assaults compared to 270 the year before. Robberies went from 15 in 2011 to seven in all of last year. There was one sexual assault in the unincorporated areas of the county in 2012 compared to 37 incidents in 2011.

Burkhard said he expects numbers of rape cases to go up if the state Legislature passes a bill that changes the way law enforcement can arrest and charge offenders.

The sheriff said he wants to add three to four deputies over the next year to specifically focus on saturation patrols to help with more of a law enforcement presence.

Burkhard said his department made arrests related to drive-by shootings in 2012 that he said was directly related to narcotics trafficking in Valencia County.

The village of Los Lunas saw a significant spike in assaults with 280 incidents. That number is 70 more than in 2011.

"We have a lot of angry people out there," said Los Lunas Police Chief Roy Melnick. "I attribute that to the economy."

Last year, there were more assaults with a dangerous weapon — 30 compared to 10 in 2011. Robberies went up by seven incidents from three to 10 in 2012, while sexual assault cases remained the same at eight.

"Everything is pretty much stable," Melnick said. "The only increase is assaults with and without weapons and property crimes."

In Belen, homicides went up by two — a double homicide in January 2012. There were no homicides in all of 2011 or 2010.

The number of assaults went from 62 to 64 in 2012, and robberies decreased from 10 incidents in 2011 to one last year.

The number of sexual assault cases went up by one incident. There were two rape cases in 2012 and one incident the year before.

Belen Police Chief Dan Robb said it's hard for law enforcement to track violent crimes. He said violent crimes are usually sporadic and aren't easy-to-find trends like in property crimes.

Robb said overall he is happy with this year's crime statistics.

"We'd like to get (every category) down to zero," Robb said. "If we can't get it down to zero, we want to get it down to something reasonable."


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