Did a Homicide Happen in My Neighborhood? An Explanation of Most Commonly Asked Questions
By: ABQRAW staff
An APD officer stands near the body of a homicide victim last month
It is October and the Albuquerque metro area has surpassed the 2022 homicide record. It has now become common place for homicide scenes to be seen around town. As explained by a source inside the department there is a process of what must happen when a homicide occurs and when the police investigate it.
ABQ RAW often has questions asked of us in our direct messages or on scenes about what is going on. This may serve as to some answers for the most commonly asked questions.
How can I tell if a violent crime or homicide occurred?
There will be an initial response of uniformed police and medical personnel to the scene. Law enforcement will make the scene safe for medical personnel to enter the area. The medical personnel will then assess the victim(s) and sometimes transport them to the University of New Mexico Hospital, which is a level 1 trauma center, for life threatening medical care.
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Once the scene has been made secure and it appears a person(s) died of an un-natural violent means, a call will be made by the initial responding officers to his or her supervisor. The patrol supervisor will then make contact with dispatch supervisors who will in turn make a call the violent crimes and homicide units supervisors to explain what they see on scene. If after all the supervisors have spoken to each other and there is evidence and information that makes them believe there is a suspicious death or homicide, a full violent crimes call out will be initiated. APD will send at least one of their command post RV's to the scene and sometimes depending on the size of the scene two command posts will arrive to process the scene. Other agencies have different procedures for their response.
Two APD RVs are at the scene of a homicide in Albuquerque. The black one is the newest version
What is the difference between the red tape and yellow crime scene tape?
The red tape at crime scenes is where the homicide actually occurred and is considered the inner perimeter and it is usually the primary area investigators will look for evidence. Sometimes the body will still be on scene if the victim was deceased when officers arrived and other times the victim might have been taken to the hospital where they died in surgery. The yellow crime scene tape is usually used to make the larger outside perimeter to keep people out of the immediate scene perimeter.
Why can't I get to my house?
A homicide scene has crime scene tape up to prevent the public from entering the area.
Police may have a large crime scene area blocked off with yellow tape because a supervisor decided they needed a large area to work in to discover any possible evidence. If this is the case it can prevent people from returning to, or leaving their home for hours. The resident can usually talk with police supervisors about gaining access to their homes or businesses if the area isn't too close to the red tape. People can expect the area to be closed off for often more than 5 hours as the scene is being processed for evidence.
As part of the homicide investigation process Investigators have to obtain warrants for any property or persons for which they will need to search. It will have to be submitted to the court system and approved by a judge. It can take several hours for this to be approved.
Why don't they just cover the body with a blanket?
APD homicide investigators look over a homicide scene.
Officers are not trying to be inhumane or cruel when they leave a body uncovered. Police and crime scene investigators do not typically cover the body of the victim with a blanket because it could contaminate the body. Blankets are not sterile and could introduce fibers or other contaminants which detectives don't want introduced into the scene. The victim could have evidence on their body that could help locate a killer. Many police agencies have used portable black blocking stands to obscure the body from public view. Once the body has been investigated by crime scene specialists and the Office of the Medical Investigator they may put a sheet on the body to cover it from public view.
What is the difference between a "suspicious death" and a homicide?
A suspicious death means the victim died in unusual circumstances which is not obvious and it does not appear to be a natural type death. Crime scene specialists have determined that there is evidence on scene which could lead to a later homicide ruling. The police and OMI will investigate the case simultaneously but independently. The OMI or Office of the Medical Investigator has ultimate determination about manner, and cause of death and can not be overruled by any police agency. If the death is not obvious on scene, the OMI will have a report in a few months ruling what the cause of death was.
Why is there not any press briefings by APD on homicide scenes?
Lt. Ray Del Greco
For over a year and half, APD allowed Lt. Ray Del Greco of the Violent Crimes Division to give media statements at scenes. The briefings to all media was typically less than five minutes and would give the most basic initial facts of the homicide or suspicious death call out. Apparently as of last month Lt Del Greco has been removed from his public information duties for unknown reasons. APD now sends out a secret email to select media outlets, to exclude ABQ RAW from any and all media briefings. The new emailed media briefings appear to offer very limited facts and the death is almost always now labeled "suspicious".
All other law enforcement agencies hold press briefings for high profile cases but for simpler situations they usually just email the facts of the case to media. We are on the media lists of the FBI, US Marshals office, ATF, DEA, NM State Police, Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department, Rio Rancho PD, NM Department of Corrections, and a few other agencies. Notably missing and on purpose is the City of Albuquerque's Fire and Police Departments. The City of Albuquerque refuses to provide ABQRAW with any information pertaining to their media situations.
Will the victim ever get justice?
Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department homicide detectives work a scene of a homicide.
Current 2022 homicide clearance rates are around 50% for APD and the Bernalillo County Sheriff's office. The legal system takes more than 2 years for a trial to happen for each case. There are many legal hurdles it has to clear before it can reach a plea deal or jury trial.
In cases without a person in custody, it can take weeks, months, or years for a suspect to be identified.
Can we send tips or pics to ABQ RAW about a possible violent crime?
Yes, we are extremely appreciative of the tips to our news desk. Please provide a time, location, and what you see in the area. You can use our contact page on our website or send us messages on our social media channels.