ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A little more than a year since its launch, the Albuquerque Police Department is sharing new data about a key initiative aimed at reducing gun violence in the city. Police and civilian leaders tied to Albuquerque’s “Violence Intervention Program” (VIP) revealed Friday the program has made more than 140 contacts with victims of gun violence in an effort to prevent future potential violent incidents.
Launched in April 2020, the city says the Violence Intervention Program is designed to “interrupt the process” where victims of other violent crimes become involved in perpetuating the violence that happened to them. City leaders discussed the year-old program in a news conference Friday afternoon.
Out of those 149 total contacts the city has made through the VIP, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina says only 3% have “reoffended” with any further criminal activity. APD says those incidents have been “predominantly” involving drug offenses.
APD says one incident involved a gunshot victim who was later shot in another incident in what was described as “more of a domestic violence issue.” “That was the only individual out of the 130, 140 people that we’ve talked to that was a further victim of gun violence,” said Commander Luke Languit, who helps oversee the Violence Intervention Program.
While APD says it’s unclear how many crimes they’ve prevented, APD Commander Languit said he knows of at least one case. Languit shared a story Friday of at least one person who outright admitted they would retaliate after being shot.
“When we talked with him, he told us as soon as he recovered from his wounds, he knew who had shot him and he was going to take action and he was going to retaliate and shoot that individual,” Languit said. “But it was because of the VIP team taking the time and explaining to him the messages and providing him with resources that he changed his mind and he didn’t take that action which would have led to him being incarcerated.”
In its first year of existence, the city has staffed VIP with a police commander, a program manager, a social services coordinator, and special projects manager. Mayor Tim Keller described the VIP effort Friday as a “public health model with dealing with violence crime.”
Friday, the city says it is targeting the program at victims of violence who are between the age of 18 to 29 years old. On a weekly basis, program leaders say they are reviewing shootings for potential intervention subjects. A typical “intervention” includes not just program leaders, but city leaders as well, including the Mayor or the APD Chief of Police.
During an intervention event, the city says it will not only warn at-risk subjects of the consequences of any further violence but also offer help. APD Chief Harold Medina says the city has offered shelter services, rental assistance, job training, mental health assistance, food boxes, and more.
Over the next year, the city expects to send out more VIP intervention notifications than it did in 2020. VIP Social Services Coordinator Angel Garcia says he also expects more services to become available for VIP participants as the pandemic continues to retreat and more reopening occurs in New Mexico.
“It takes a village as they say to make sure that we address the underlying causes of gun violence in Albuquerque,” VIP Manager Gerri Bachicha said during the Friday news conference. “This is a really relationship-based, one-to-one program and it only works if we reach out in that way.”