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Crime victims plead for more funds

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Nicole Chavez-Lucero speaks to a crowd outside the District Court building, asking them to call members of the Senate Finance Committee and state legislators and tell them to increase the budget for the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Both Chavez-Lucero, and Veronica Rael-Garcia, left, had children killed by violence. (ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Wearing T-shirts saying “We were robbed,” with images of loved ones killed by violence, members of the grass-roots organization ROBD, Repeat Offenders Bring Destruction, called on the state Legislature to allocate more money for prosecuting crimes in Bernalillo County.

Albuquerque accounts for about 50 percent of the state’s crimes, but the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which encompasses Bernalillo County, gets only about 25 percent of the budget allocation for DA offices statewide, said founding member Nicole Chavez-Lucero, citing FBI crime statistics.

Her 17-year-old son, Jayden Chavez-Silver, was at a friend’s home when bullets from a drive-by shooter’s gun entered through a kitchen window and killed him in 2015.

During a Tuesday news conference outside the district courthouse at Lomas and Fourth, the members called on residents of Albuquerque and the county to support 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez in his bid to get an additional $5.4 million to operate his office.

A $6.3 billion budget bill approved 66-3 last week by the House would increase base funding for the DA’s Office by about $2.3 million from current levels but would also authorize one-time funding for a crime-fighting pilot project and the Victoria Martens case. The budget under consideration calls for Torrez’s office to receive $20.6 million.

The ROBD members, many of whom were touched in some way by violent crime, asked people to call members of the Senate Finance Committee as well as their legislators to push for more funding for the DA’s Office.

“Unless you are a victim of violent crime, I don’t think you truly understand how important this is,” Chavez-Lucero said. “There are 8,000 backlogged cases that are waiting for our district attorney to try in court, but they don’t have the manpower. This is why you see those repeat offenders constantly walking on our streets.”

Founding member Veronica Rael-Garcia, whose 4-year-old daughter, Lilly, was killed in a 2015 road rage incident when a bullet ripped through a pickup truck driven by her father, said any employer should be able to assume that it will have sufficient tools to fully perform its job. “Unfortunately, the DA’s Office has not had those resources” and has been unable to hire enough prosecutors, victim advocates and paralegals, she said.

The majority of members of the Senate Finance Committee are not from Bernalillo County, ROBD member Ivon Ulibarri said, “and perhaps they are of the opinion that a greater budget is not needed because crime is not impacting their towns and communities.”

However, crime in Albuquerque affects the entire state, she said, and eventually it will reach into their own backyards. “Only then will they understand the outcry of the people who have been touched by this hell.”

Some lawmakers during this year’s session have said other parts of the state are also facing crime problems and have questioned the size of Torrez’s budget request.

Journal Capitol Bureau chief Dan Boyd contributed to this report.

 

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