When current Albuquerque Police Department (APD) Chief Harold Medina enrolled at the University of New Mexico in 1992, he knew there would be some way he would one day give back to the campus community. Now, over 20 years later, that wish is becoming a reality with the new APD University Area Command and Substation

“I just really wished that we could do more around the university area. You fast forward a period of time, I become chief and we start having conversations about how we could do more. The first step was actually developing the ECHO program in the university and Nob Hill area. This year we decided we're going to make that big move,” Medina said.

While all areas of the city are a priority, the university-area has long since required extra special care. The University of New Mexico Police Department (UNMPD) alone has a bigger force than many other New Mexico police departments, but it’s not without justification.

“When I was in school at UNM, it was unheard of for somebody to have a firearm. Now, knowing the amount of firearms and crimes being committed is shocking at times, with the way it's changed,” Medina said. “I think the biggest changes I've seen for the university area revolve around the amount of the unhoused, and the increase in violent crime in certain areas and how it has flowed into or at times the university.”

University Area Map

The southeast part of Albuquerque, a massive spread connected by Central, is critical to the university. With the new substation, officially hosting its first open House on Friday, Aug. 25, APD and UNMPD can better cover 30 square miles, help more people, and be proactive about crime trends.

“We are recognizing that we have to make our areas a little bit more geographically small if we're going to give that quality customer service to the community. Eventually we want to make sure that we have a strong presence in all areas frequented by different college students. We know that a lot of college students reside in areas within certain area commands,” Medina said. 

The location is especially advantageous. Nestled between Isotopes Park and The Pit, the six Sergeants, two Lieutenants and one Deputy Commander working there will be able to respond quickly, especially during highly populated events. 

“This is where I wanted it housed. I think it’s a good, central area for the area command and for the university. I think it gives us a presence somewhere that is important for law enforcement to have a presence. It was very purposeful that we wanted to be here to be able to make sure that we always have resources in areas that have some of the biggest crowds at times,” Medina said.

UNM officials provided this space for free to APD, welcoming the added boost to its long term campus safety plan.

We are proud to be collaborating with the Albuquerque Police Department on long-term solutions that keep campus communities safer and provide a greater sense of security for our students and residents,” said UNM President Garnett S. Stokes. “The new substation provides APD a with a much-needed base of operations in our area, allowing officers to patrol our communities more efficiently and respond, as needed, more effectively.”

There will be two day shift teams, two swing shift teams and two graveyard teams as well as a proactive response team and community engagement team.

There’s already been a significant impact for the better. According to Lieutenant Brian Pitzer, in one of the months since the substation’s soft launch in February, there were 28 different incidents APD was able to assist at, and 13 that officers were able to make arrests on.   

“We've been able to respond really, really quickly and respond to in-progress crimes. Before it could take up to an hour for officers to respond to lower priority calls, but now we've been able to respond quicker due to having officers assigned to this area sometimes preventing things from escalating,” Pitzer said.  

This area command is already gathering info when it comes to future focus areas, and the rise and fall of crime by using our crime prevention specialist and crime mapping systems. One of those, Pitzer says, is bus stops. 

“We’ve seen an uptick these last few months of crimes being committed at bus stops. We want to focus on the Nob Hill and UNM area in order to divert crime making it a safe place to dine and shop. Our goal is with our presence we prevent crimes before they occur,” he said.

These APD officers will concentrate especially on Nob Hill and University areas, along with Ridgecrest and Mesa Del Sol, from San Mateo west, to I-25 and I-40 South, to the city limits. Medina expects this to be a combination of foot patrol officers, bicycle officers and mounted patrol officers. 

“We want APD bike officers patrolling Central somewhere from University to Girard on Friday and Saturday nights. This is the first key step to ensuring that we're always present in that crucial area, and that university students know that law enforcement is out in these areas working together,” Medina said.

You can also know that the recent spike in auto thefts and break-ins has not fallen on deaf ears.

“We can double coverage in certain parking areas, make sure that our officers are visible when they have downtime doing police reports in some of those parking lots. I'm learning and realizing that the parking demands of the University of New Mexico have greatly changed since I was here in 1994,” Medina said. 

It also provides a unique opportunity for sharing and learning between the two departments as well as the campus community. A recent joint crime operation in August between APD and UNMPD resulted in big results. 

Exterior of University Area Command

“After we're able to get enough resources in, I would really like to put an emphasis on education and outreach to individuals that are going to college that is specifically geared to them and how we could work better with them in the area surrounding the university,” Medina said. 

“There are lots of ways where APD, UNMPD and the community could also learn from each other, and also educate each other on the trends occurring in both areas. What is the city seeing on just the other side of Central? What are officers experiencing on campus? We want to make sure we're both keeping an eye for any overflow of issues on either side.” – APD Chief Harold Medina

While the next year will be a test run for the station, Medina anticipates this area command will be a fixture for years to come.

“I could tell you now that we have every intention of making this permanent. We will have to get Albuquerque City Council approval, but it’s part of our plan to divide our large area commands into multiple, smaller commands,” Medina said.

Crime is prevalent in Albuquerque, but it’s also complex. It’s a constant battle that Medina recognizes.

“I think a lot of times people tend to overlook the positives. Crime has been reduced in Albuquerque, and it's not because of me. It's not because of the mayor. It's because we have officers out there every single day who work hard and who are doing everything they can to reduce crime,” he said.

Medina hopes that students, staff, faculty and families can recognize that as a UNM alumnus with his own family of Lobos, he has the university’s best interests at heart.

“We will continue to work hard to make UNM safe. I can understand parents' concerns. My parents had concerns when I came here,” Medina said. “I am an alumni. I do believe in the University of New Mexico. I think it's the greatest college in the country, if you ask me. we're not perfect, but we'll continue to strive to make this as safe as possible.”

You can find the new APD University Area Command and Substation at 1009 Bradbury Dr SE. For non-emergency APD calls, 505-242-COPS. For non-emergency UNMPD calls, dial  (505) 277-2241. For emergencies, anytime, call 911.