Keller: APD must 'take a fresh look' at child abuse - Albuquerque Journal

Keller: APD must ‘take a fresh look’ at child abuse

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller is calling on police to examine how they investigate possible child abuse or children’s safety issues in the wake of a case of suspected sex trafficking of a young girl with whom police had prior contacts.

Mayor Tim Keller

Keller’s office sent out a news release on Thursday, saying that Albuquerque police should take the following steps:

• Review child abuse cases for patterns that raise red flags;

• Work on trauma-informed interviewing techniques;

• Use the Real Time Crime Center to identify people with repeat interactions with law enforcement or child welfare agencies;

• Work with a state Children, Youth and Families Department task force to review prior cases;

• Prioritize recruitment and funding for civilian and sworn positions that work on children’s cases;

• Reach out to other law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, the courts, CYFD and child advocates to coordinate crimes against children cases; and

• Evaluate policies on evidence collection.

“I think it’s calling on APD to take a fresh look at all the various ways that they interact with families and children, whether it’s a welfare call or child abuse call or an investigation,” said Gilbert Gallegos, a police spokesman. “I think we could use more work on maybe when there’s not an obvious crime or allegation, are there ways to backtrack and interact (with potential victims).”

Keller said in a statement that the city has seen horrible things happen when children “fall through the cracks.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to try to prevent this from happening. It’s going to take all of us – law enforcement agencies, child advocates, prosecutors and the courts,” Keller said in a prepared statement. “Today we’re stepping up ourselves, and we’re reaching out to all of these partners to address coordination for cases impacting children’s safety. We’re asking all of these partners to review how they interact on child abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking cases, including the handling of evidence. We’ve got to figure out a way to build a system that protects our kids.”

Keller’s announcement comes after a criminal case was brought against a man and woman who have been charged with crimes related to sex trafficking a young girl.

Police had been tipped off that the girl was being abused months before the Attorney General’s Office brought charges against James Stewart and Teri Sanchez. Stewart faces 14 counts of promoting prostitution and criminal sexual contact of a minor and trafficking a child. Sanchez has been indicted on child abuse charges.

After being tipped off about possible abuse, an Albuquerque Public Schools teacher showed police blood-stained underwear she found while changing the 7-year-old girl while she was at school in November.

The teacher said in a hearing this week that the officer threw the underwear in a Dumpster, because it would be inadmissible in court.

Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier in an interview this week didn’t say exactly what the officer did with the underwear, but defended the officer’s investigation.

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