Criminals often take advantage of the out-of-towners who visit Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta. But police say this year was different, and it wasn't due to luck.
Albuquerque Police said they have three main concerns when fiesta rolls around: Traffic, thieves and missing kids. Although all were an issue at some point, overall, police said this year ran smoothly.
Each year as the balloons go up, so do the crime stats. But, Lt. Fernando Aragon with APD told News 13 the city faired well this year.
"It looks like the numbers have been very good," said Aragon.
Aragon said preliminary reports show 31 felony arrests and 21 misdemeanor arrests in the city during the nine days of Balloon Fiesta. Only one arrest involving 24-year-old Justin C'Debaca happened at the park. Police said he was caught on camera stealing from a vendor.
"Usually for the Balloon Fiesta, we have an increase of out-of-town guests, and we don't want them to be victims of crimes when they're visiting our city," said Aragon. "Sometimes it's for the first time, and we don't want to leave a bad taste in their mouth."
The southwest area command for APD reported just one car break-in at a hotel the entire week of fiesta. APD credits the low crime to preventative tactics, such as using balloon equipment as bait,
by tagging items with tracking devices, and increasing their presence at hotels.
In the park, it was all hands on deck as well.
"At the Balloon Fiesta park itself, we had 131 officers and that includes only APD," said Aragon.
Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputies and New Mexico State Police were also present. Aside from property crimes and traffic, police said missing kids are always a concern in the massive crowds.
According to APD, State Police tagged 4,710 tots at fiesta this year, and 156 still managed to get lost.
"For us, that's one of the things we take really seriously. You know, when you have someone reporting a 2- or a 3-year-old missing, you know we try to get that out to everybody out there," explained Aragon.
Aragon said each kid was reunited with their parents within the day.
And each year the fiesta comes and goes, officers work to improve everyone's experience.
"We just try to always refine it. We say, 'OK, what happened last year, how can we make it work a little bit better this year?' " Aragon said.
APD said they hope to have a mobile command post of their own on the field next year to show more of a presence, and be easier for people to find.
Aragon said during the nine-day Balloon Fiesta, APD netted seven crooks around the city with their bait cars.