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In New Mexico, season's always open for man, car, and chopper

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Date published: 10/6/2005

I'll sing you a true song of Billy the Kid,

I'll sing of the desperate deeds that he did,

Way out in New Mexico, long long ago

When a man's only chance was his

own 44.

--The Rev. Andrew Jenkins /Woody Guthrie

IWAS TALKING to my friend Lou in Albuquerque on the phone a while back when he suddenly interrupted the conversation.

"Did you hear that?" he asked.

"No," I replied.

"Someone just fired off a clip not far from my house."

We continued the conservation, and a few minutes later I heard a distinct popping noise in the background, and Lou said he was calling the police. Lou lives in a decent neighborhood.

When Lou returned to the phone, he said that the gunfire situation in Albuquerque gets to the point that you barely pay attention to it anymore--and that's bad. Welcome to open borders, Albuquerque-style, where New Years, July 4th, and Cinco de Mayo are greeted by a hail of gunfire, along with any other occasion, or no occasion.

Someone, says Lou, occasionally gets clocked by falling lead, and public-service announcements air on TV before major holidays to remind people that firing weapons into the air in a metropolitan area is dangerous and illegal, and what goes up must come down. (Who could have ever guessed?)

Not all the gunplay in Albuquerque is so benign. The TV show "Cops" was banned from filming the Albuquerque Police Department because the city was "overrepresented" on the show. Was this bias against Albuquerque? About two years ago, with one-fifteenth the population of New York City, Albuquerque had the same number of murders as the Big Apple.

Not long ago, a police helicopter searching for suspects was shot down and fell into a backyard in Albuquerque. The guy who plunked the helicopter was not the miscreant the cops were looking for, at least not until he shot up the chopper. On a recent weekend, the APD lost three police cars in the line of duty.

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