*Editor’s note: This post has been updated to clarify how FBI data should be interpreted (see end of article).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Every year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation compiles data from police agencies across the nation. Wednesday, October 5, they released the data from 2021, which shows New Mexico had the nation’s second highest rate of total crimes against persons.
The numbers also show New Mexico’s per-population kidnapping and abduction rate was the highest in the nation. But that may be due, in part, to the way the state defines kidnapping. New Mexico’s definition of kidnapping could be construed as relatively broad and includes holding someone against their will using force or intimidation.
Last year, New Mexico law enforcement reported over 28,000 crimes against persons. That includes crimes such as murder, rape, assault, and kidnapping. And given New Mexico’s population, the state’s crime rate against persons per population is the second highest in the nation.
For every 100,000 people in New Mexico, law enforcement reported 2,189 crimes against persons in 2021, FBI data shows. The only state with a higher rate was Arkansas, which reported 2,276 crimes per 100,000 people.
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New Mexico ranks near the top of the list in crimes against persons. Data from FBI NIBRS.
New Mexico agencies reported nearly 25,500 instances of assault in 2021. That’s 1,872 more than the state reported in 2020.
New Mexico law enforcement also reported more homicides in 2021 than the year before. Across New Mexico, police reported 193 homicides to the FBI in 2021. That’s 67 more than in 2020.
The majority of the state’s reported homicides last year were in Albuquerque. KRQE News 13 previously reported that 2021 brought a record-breaking number of homicides to New Mexico’s largest city. Albuquerque is on-track to break the previous year’s record.
New Mexico isn’t at the top of the list in all crime categories. For example, while law enforcement reported 1,663 instances of sex offenses in 2021, six other states had higher rates of sex offenses per population. That includes states like Alaska, Utah, and Montana.
High rate of kidnappings doesn’t always mean kids being taken
New Mexico law enforcement reported 822 kidnappings and abductions to the FBI in 2021. That puts New Mexico at the top of the list regarding kidnappings and abductions per 100,000 people. Kansas, Colorado, and Utah also rank high on the list of kidnappings and abductions per population.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that kids are being snatched in high numbers. Because of how New Mexico law defines kidnapping, many instances of kidnappings across the state are more akin to restraining someone against their will, often related to domestic violence.
For example, on August 7, 2022, Albuquerque Police reportedly responded to a kidnapping call. According to the criminal complaint filed in metro court, the caller “stated that the caller’s friend was thrown into her ex-boyfriend’s car at gunpoint.” The involved woman reportedly told police that “she felt she had no choice [but] to get in his vehicle.”
That sort of incident meets both the FBI’s definition of a kidnapping/abduction and the state’s definition. The ex-boyfriend was booked into the Metro Detention Center for kidnapping and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
FBI data may be best nationwide picture, but has gaps
The FBI statistics offer one of the most comprehensive databases on crime nationwide. But the FBI does not have full data from all law enforcement agencies.
New Mexico has over 125 law enforcement agencies across the state. And the FBI reports that only 42 (or about 33%) of the agencies in the state participated in the FBI’s data collection in 2021.
KRQE News 13 called several departments to learn why their numbers weren’t part of the FBI’s data. Several told us they submitted data, but the data may have been rejected due to errors.
Additionally, within the FBI database, some states have incomplete crime data. Florida, for example, only includes data from two tribal law enforcement agencies.
*Editor’s Note: As noted in the story, the FBI’s data is incomplete at both the state and national level. Still, the FBI notes that the data is useful “to inform the public about the state of crime as it compares to the national level.” Some readers have noted that the FBI has mentioned there may be “pitfalls” to ranking locales using the data. The FBI data documentation points out that simply rankings without further consideration “ignore the uniqueness of each locale,” including differences such as population. KRQE News 13 has attempted to contextualize the data and avoid those pitfalls by adjusting report numbers by population as well as exploring New Mexico’s definition of crimes such as “kidnapping.” Finally, the FBI’s documentation discourages ranking at the law enforcement agency level. In an effort to conform to this, KRQE News 13 did not make comparisons within this story among various agencies.