Volume 77 / Number 29 - December 19 - 25, 2007
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Villager photo by Patrick Hedlund

The Albuquerque Police Department’s ad in Soho entices potential recruits with an image of New Mexico’s scenic mountains.

Albuquerque police are gunning for recruits in Soho

By Patrick Hedlund

The New York Police Department has found some competition for recruitment, from a police force 2,000 miles away offering everything from higher pay to scenic surroundings.

Pedestrians recently pounding the pavement in Soho might have passed a seemingly out-of-place billboard on Grand St. recruiting aspiring officers to the Albuquerque Police Department — a new method employed by the Southwestern city to attract prospective cops from across the country.

The colorful 25-foot-long, 15-foot-tall advertisement at 125 Grand St., between Broadway and Crosby St., features the mountainous skyline of New Mexico’s largest city while touting such things as a hiring bonus and a take-home car to new recruits.

The owner of the Soho building, a native West Village resident who now lives in Albuquerque, decided to donate his ad space to the A.P.D. to help expand recruitment efforts in New York.

“They need to spring their net wide,” said Nate Korn, who owns a police-equipment outlet store, Kaufman’s West, in the New Mexico city and has lived there since 1980. In the past, he had rented the Soho wall space for advertisements by Samsung and the Discovery Channel, for upwards of $20,000 per month.

“If it’s going to give [recruits] a better life for them and their family, I’m pleased to make them aware of it,” he added.

Korn decided to give the A.P.D a free two-month run because of his relationship with the department, which has also recruited in Michigan and Wisconsin to meet Albuquerque’s growing population of just over half a million.

“It’s kind of one of those things where you got to seek out the talent,” said A.P.D. Lieutenant Shawn O’Connell, who first approached Korn after hearing about his premium ad location. O’Connell noted that the Southwestern city’s boom times necessitated the innovative approach, and admitted that the yearly pittance currently offered to entry-level N.Y.P.D. officers made New York City a desirable recruiting ground. “[New York] is a big pool of people, and we’re just trying to capitalize on that,” he said.

Captain Matt Suazo of the A.P.D.’s recruiting division said police departments nationwide have faced dwindling numbers, and that his department couldn’t pass on the chance to appeal to some of New York’s would-be Finest.

“We’re finding that other communities are maybe not providing the benefits and incentives we have,” Suazo said, adding he was shocked to find out about pay cuts within the N.Y.P.D. The 980-person Albuquerque force, for example, provides a $5,000 hiring bonus, paid training, take-home car and retirement benefits after 20 years.

“People are looking to come to this part of the country,” Suazo said, citing the balmy winter weather and an influx of New Yorkers into the city, “and we just want to provide that opportunity for employment.”

Requests for comment from the Fifth Police Precinct, which includes the billboard site, were not returned by press time, and a Police Department spokesperson had not heard anything of the advertisement.

The billboard still appears a bit odd in the neighborhood, where boutique shops and art galleries dot the heavily trafficked streets. A photo of the ad even appeared on Curbed.com’s real estate Web site last week, where commenters expressed reservations over its legitimacy.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in New York before,” said Carl Rosenstein, director of The Puffin Room art-performance space a block north on Broome St. He expressed a uniform distaste for all advertisements in the neighborhood, but did acknowledge the beauty of New Mexico’s landscapes. “Maybe those Soho people are going to come flocking,” Rosenstein mused.

Captain Suazo noted that one recruit flew to Albuquerque immediately after seeing the ad, but that she failed the physical exam required of all new recruits, while O’Connell claimed to have received “several” calls already from interested New Yorkers.

But for recruits, could the serenity of the Southwest win out over the grit of New York’s streets?

“We’ve got the mountains and all the outdoor activity. … It’s just a change of pace,” O’Connell said. “Hopefully we can find some people who’d be interested in that.”

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