Aggressive Driving Enforcement
Home | Contents
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico experienced some tragic episodes with road rage and a marked increase in felony crimes. The police chief wanted something done. Officer Jay Gilhooly was asked to find a solution. He used a pin map to locate incidences of aggressive driving and road rage. Since there was no apparent pattern of occurrences, he then teamed with a traffic analyst to research high crash intersections. He found that thirty-three of the top fifty high-crash intersections in New Mexico are in Albuquerque. After charting those intersections, he found twenty-seven of the thirty-three were concentrated in four clusters. When crime data was added to the pin map, it turned out that the high crash clusters and the high crime areas were similar.

In 1997, the Albuquerque Police Department started the Safe Streets program. The main strategy was to saturate one of the four high-crime/high-crash areas with law enforcement officers. The saturation patrols consisted of twelve motorcycle officers, a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) enforcement team and officers drawn from the local command. The primary tactic was to position officers at the gateways used by people to enter the four target areas. They stopped and cited motorists for all traffic infractions. Saturation patrols continued in the same area for one month and then moved to another area. Twice during the second month, officers returned to the first area to give the public perception that the saturation patrol was occurring in both areas. During the third month of the enforcement effort, the saturation patrol team went back to the first area once during the month and twice to the second area. That pattern continued, until all four areas received maximum patrol efforts.

During the enforcement efforts in the city, they formed freeway enforcement teams. These teams use unmarked patrol vehicles, and a "cherry picker" truck that placed an officer in the bucket with a radar gun and hand-held radio to call ahead to officers in marked patrol vehicles. The officer in the bucket was watching for speeding and aggressive drivers. During one five-day week, two hours per day period, they issued 1,400 citations, primarily for speeding.

Project Outcome

A case study of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Safe Streets program was done for NHTSA by ANACAPA Sciences, Inc. Traffic collisions increased by 46 percent in Albuquerque the five years before starting Safe Streets in 1997. An increase in aggressive driving and road rage incidents accompanied a 12 percent increase in all collisions from 1995 to 1996 that resulted in the special enforcement effort. There was a 9 percent decrease from 1996 to 1997 in property damage only crashes, an 18 percent decline in injury crashes, a 20 percent decline in DUI crashes and a 34 percent decline in fatal crashes. 6

Crashes by type in Albuquerque between 1992-1997 that shows the effects of the Safe Streets program.

All crashes in Albuquerque: 1992-1997

The program was so successful that an operator of the local ambulance service called the Albuquerque Police Department to see how much longer their Safe Streets program was going to be operating. The ambulance service was seeing a major decline in the number of crashes, thus affecting the ambulance company business.

As the Safe Streets enforcement effort continued, citizens would come out of their houses and wave at the law enforcement officers. Drivers going by a law enforcement officer on a traffic stop would honk and wave at the officers, in a show of support for the officers taking back the streets and making Albuquerque safer.

Legal Considerations

Because of the increase in the number of citations, crowding became a serious problem at the Albuquerque Municipal Court when paying traffic fines. The Fire Marshal stepped in and required the court to open up a walk-up window outside to relieve crowding in the building.

More Information

Officer Jay Gilhooly
Albuquerque Police Department
5408 2nd Street
Albuquerque, NM 87107
(505) 761-8805