Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Target Area: International District - Population 37,600
BCJI Awardee: Second Judicial District Attorney's Office
Research Partners: University of New Mexico and John Jay College
Focus Areas: Violent Crime
BCJI Funding Year: FY2018
The International District is in a part of southeast Albuquerque that boomed in the 1950s with the growth of Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Laboratories. Southeast Asian refugees moved in after the Vietnam War, and the area has since attracted immigrants and refugees from Africa, Mexico, and Central and South America. In the 1990s, the area saw an increase in local crime and the proliferation of gangs. This led to the area being referred to by the informal label of "The War Zone." In response, residents cultivated a collective, positive identity, designating their community the "International District." The District is home to 37,000 people - 6.7 percent of Albuquerque's population. It is made up of seven distinct neighborhoods: Fair West, Siesta Hills, Trumbull Village, Elder Homestead, La Mesa, and South San Pedro. Four have active neighborhood associations.
The most valuable resources within the International District are the people who live, work, learn, play, and pray there. The International District has one of the highest concentrations in New Mexico of individuals fluent in a language other than English. Forty percent of residents speak a non-English language at home, including Spanish, Vietnamese, Navajo, and other native American languages. Additionally, this area is one of the most diverse in the state of New Mexico, with 17 percent of its residents identifying as foreign-born, 52 percent identifying as Hispanic, and a higher population of Blacks and Asians compared to the rest of the state. The International District is home to many community organizations and agencies that provide physical and behavioral health and social services, assistance to veterans, affordable housing, economic activity development, and inmate and ex-offender support. Faith-based and religious organizations play an essential role in the International District and continue to engage in efforts to make the area safer and more inclusive.
The International District is served by the Albuquerque Police Department Southeast (SE) Area Command. Although only 6.7 percent of Albuquerque's population resides in this District, 13 percent of calls for services come from the SE. The International District is disproportionately affected by violent crime: 27 percent of homicides, 37.3 percent of non-fatal shootings with injury, 22.2 percent of aggravated assaults, 19.9 percent of carjackings, 23.6 percent or robberies, and 20 percent of non-fatal shootings without injury. Of the 12,444 addresses in the SE, 10.99 percent (1,367) had one or more violent crime incidents; 3.7 percent (461) had two or more violent crime incidents, 0.87 percent (108) had five or more violent crime incidents, and 0.27 percent (34) had ten or more violent crime incidents (2014-2016).
During the planning phase, the District Attorney's (DA) Office reached out to community leaders, neighborhood residents, and representatives from various organizations and institutions that serve the International District. More than 50 individuals from schools, social services, law enforcement, and community organizations partnered with the DA's Office and committed to serving on the Leadership Council. The research partner, University of New Mexico (UNM) Innovation Academy, conducted literature reviews regarding the proposed interventions, established baseline data for the target area, and assisted in creating and measuring evaluaiton and assessment metrics for project implementation. The DA's Office also worked with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to determine data needs for group violence intervention initiatives.
The Leadership Council and working groups examined pressing issues and reisk factors in the International District, including poverty, witnessing/experiencing violence, use of alcohol and other drugs, homelessness, incarceration, truancy, economic disparities, lack of access to health services, childcare, after-school programming for youth, inadequate public transportation, and easy access to guns. These chronic challenges lead to cyclical and inter-related problems that prevent the development and maintenance of a fuctioning community. Residents of the International District have a long, shared history of being over-policed, over-studied, and underserved. Overwhelmingly, the Leadership Council requested assistance to connect individuals and families to the resources they need, most of which already exist in the International District.
The DA's Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) team and Leadership Council participated in activities surrounding ABQ CiQlovia as part of the BCJI grant's Early Action Project (EAP) in the International District. CiQlovia is an annual event that promotes community health and safety by closing down streets to traffic and creating a fun and safe space for cyclists and pedestrians. It is modeled after similar "open streets" events. In 2019, the event featured a community health fair, activity booths, food trucks, live music and dance, artwork, exhibits, vendors, and more. The BCJI program sponsored part of the event, mobilized a volunteer effort, and hosted an activity booth. This EAP aimed to encourage community mobilization, spread information about the grant, develop relationships with leaders and residents in the neighborhood, collect qualitative data, and foster engagement and sustainability. The grant team also participated in marketing efforts for the event by creating printed materials and attempting to reach the community through radio and television promotion. The team intends to engage in future CiQlovia activities in ongoing community engagement.
Other Key Partners
ABC Community Schools, Albuquerque Police Department, Arts Hub, Bernalillo County Community Health Council, City of Albuquerque Office of Neighborhood Coordination, City Council District 6, East Central Ministries, Endorphin Power Company, International District Healthy Communities Coalition, United States Attorney's Office, and United Way Mission: Families.
This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2018-BJ-BX-K035 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.