Letter from Chief Steele

‘Public Safety Bond is About Reliability, Which Means a Safer Community’

When I became your Police Chief last year, one of the first things that struck me about the community was its size.  Rio Rancho covers more than 100 square miles.  This has real consequences for the Police Department and the community members we serve.

When you have this much territory to patrol, it means a lot of driving with the miles very quickly adding up on a vehicle’s odometer.  This is one of the reasons why approximately 40 percent of your Police Department’s vehicles have more than 100,000 miles with an additional 20 percent likely reaching this mark in the very near future.  For a police vehicle and the manner in which the unit has to be operated (e.g., repetitive, long stretches of the engine running), once you begin to approach 100,000 miles and above, the likelihood of the vehicle becoming unreliable increases significantly.  

When there is a need for a police officer, time matters.  As a result, reliable response vehicles are an absolute necessity.  That is why your local government has placed a $4.1 million Public Safety Bond Question on the March 6 ballot for voter consideration.  If approved, your police department would have the necessary resources to purchase approximately 50 replacement vehicles.  In addition, bond proceeds would also be made available and used to acquire much needed fire and emergency medical response vehicles.

Because Rio Rancho is known locally, regionally and nationally as being a safe community with a high quality of life, some might wonder why voters are being asked to consider this bond question, which if approved would result in a small property tax increase ($25 for a $100,000 home), but still keep rates well below those in Albuquerque.  Simply put, Rio Rancho and its Police Department have reached a tipping point where we must change our approach and investment level in public safety vehicles in order to help ensure we continue to have the safe community we enjoy and have come to expect.  For example, communities across the nation, including those in New Mexico, have dedicated and recurring bond cycles and proceeds specifically for public safety resources.  This has not been the case in Rio Rancho.  

Instead, your local government and police department have had to rely on sporadic funding resulting from economic ups and downs, the negative impact of shopping (and associated tax generation for public services) occurring outside of Rio Rancho’s borders, loans, one-time revenues, and funding sources that have been reduced over time.  If the bond question is approved by voters, the city can move from a piecemealed, Band-Aid, and volatile approach to vehicle acquisition, to one that is more stable and will make a substantial difference both short- and long-term.

The dedicated men and women of the Police Department exist to protect and serve you and your loved ones.  Acquiring replacement police vehicles is not about addressing their wants, but ensuring they have what is necessary to meet your needs.

For more information about the March 6 election, visit rrnm.gov/2018election.

Sincerely,
Stewart Steele, Rio Rancho Police Chief