Billboard messages are popping up along Albuquerque freeways urging people to report vehicle thefts and suspects in an effort to put a dent in the local crime rate. According to the latest "Hot Spots" report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the Albuquerque metropolitan area had the second highest vehicle theft rate per capita in the nation in 2015.
Working with the New Mexico Insurance Fraud Bureau and the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office, NICB provided funding for the messages which will run through April on digital billboards at major locations along I-25 and I-40.
The organizations discussed collaborative efforts to help reduce the theft rate during a fraud summit held in Albuquerque last fall. The metro area was improving from the eighth spot nationally in 2008. Using bait cars provided by NICB and its member companies, law enforcement efforts moved the area down to the number 20 spot in 2012 and 2013. However, reduced funding for auto theft prevention and other issues resulted in an upswing, and 2015 saw the area rise to number two on the Hot Spots list.
The number to call for vehicle theft activity or to report suspected thieves is 505-827-9359. The line is staffed around the clock.
"We urge citizens to call us if they see something," said Fraud Bureau Chief Roberta Baca. "The community's assistance is essential in helping law enforcement stem the tide on this unacceptable crime rate."