The Santa Fe Police Department announced Monday a plan to tackle an ever-growing number of burglaries by implementing a "multifaceted approach."
In a six-month operation the city is calling "Full Court Press," the department says it will use an almost fully staffed police force and a newly created narcotics unit in an effort to reduce property crimes, which are on pace to surpass 2010's record number of residential burglaries.
"This idea has been in the works for a while, but the problem has always been the manpower," Santa Fe Police Chief Ray Rael said.
In March, there were 16 staff vacancies in the Santa Fe Police Department. With the hiring of several patrol officers this month and the hiring of seven other officers who will be sent to the Law Enforcement Academy, Rael said, the department now has just five vacancies.
Now, Rael says, the investigations unit is fully staffed and able to throw more manpower at the rising burglary numbers.
The 348 residential burglaries through May 14 of this year already outpace the first five months of last year by 61 burglaries, and that's without complete May statistics for 2012.
The 62 burglaries reported just in the first half of May this year are 10 more than the total for the entire month last year. Data for the entire month of May this year will be available next week.
The narcotics unit, made up of five detectives, was made official Monday. It will focus on street and midlevel drug dealers in the city. Rael made clear that in order to quell the burglaries in Santa Fe, illegal drug dealing has to be a focus.
Rael said the path to property crime for many in Santa Fe begins when the offenders are young teens. They try a drug, or in some cases steal prescription drugs from parents or friends, and after a period of use resort to larcenies and burglaries to pay for their highs, he said.
"Unfortunately, with drugs like heroin, one use is enough to cause a lifetime of addiction," Rael said.
The narcotics unit is one part of the department's approach. He said the entire department is improving the flow of information from unit to unit so that investigations can be linked to other cases.
The head of Operation Full Court Press is Det. Sgt. Jerome Sanchez.
Lt. Louis Carlos said police also will improve background checks on people they've arrested so that if they pick up a burglar on a warrant, the warrant will show the perpetrator's criminal history so that a court can make a more informed sentence.
"If they are going to attack the community by breaking into its homes and stealing property," Carlos said, "the department is going to respond to that by putting these people behind bars."
Carlos, the department's public information officer, said the department has started issuing weekly "wanted posters" of the top five most-wanted burglars on social media websites, at neighborhood watch meetings and other public forums.
Rael and Carlos said the hiring of more patrol officers will also allow police to better patrol hot spots for home burglaries. Rael said close patrols of neighborhoods will be done with both undercover vehicles and marked squad cars.
Contact Nico Roesler at 986-3089 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nicoroesler.
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