In Albuquerque, the city and the county are making progress in improving public safety and preventing crime, but they cannot and should not have to do it alone. And because crime is not limited to Albuquerque, the state must do its part to help all of New Mexico reduce and control crime. Every New Mexican deserves to feel safe in their community, and emphasizing proactive solutions is critical to improving public safety.
The Legislature has already been working in a bipartisan manner to develop recommendations for broad and aggressive policies and procedures designed to improve our criminal justice system and promote public safety. In addition, last year the Legislature created a task force composed of stakeholders in the entire criminal justice system and charged it with the responsibility of 1) making recommendations designed to reduce crime, and 2) developing a plan to ensure taxpayer dollars are effectively and efficiently being spent in our criminal justice system. The task force recently filed its report with several recommendations. Here are a few key ones:
First, anyone who is arrested and required to be fingerprinted will be assigned a unique identifying number that must be used throughout the criminal justice system. This will ensure that the person is tracked throughout the system by law enforcement, jails, courts, prisons, probation and parole, etc. If the same person is arrested in the future, their identity will be easily verified even if they use a different name or are arrested for committing a crime elsewhere. In addition, all data about the person should be collected on the same “platform” so that the data can be shared systemwide. For example, if a court schedules a hearing, under the unique identifier and shared platform everyone – the prosecutors, public defenders, courts, corrections, police officers, witnesses and victims – will know, automatically, when the hearing is scheduled to occur. If all participants know about hearings, they will show up, and there will be fewer delays due to failures to appear. Everyone will finally be on the same page.
Once data is collected and shared on a common platform, the data can be continually analyzed to evaluate whether our system is working as intended or needs improvements. Fortunately, we have access to experts in data analytics at New Mexico Tech in Socorro who analyze data for NATO, the Department of Defense and many other federal agencies and are eager to help develop the platform. Even better, the folks at Tech can train people around the state to analyze data efficiently and fairly.
Once data is analyzed, it can be used very effectively in addressing crime. We can identify the truly bad actors and keep our streets safe, while at the same time effectively utilizing resources to put non-violent offenders on the path to constructive rehabilitation. We can identify people in trouble and help them obtain effective treatment before they commit crimes. Courts can be better informed before making release or sentencing decisions. Law enforcement, courts, jails, prisons, probation and parole, etc., can ensure that their programs are following the best practices available to keep people from committing more crimes. We can also spot abuses in the system, such as racial and ethnic bias.
Of course, there is no substitute for rebuilding our mental health system and providing support for those already in prison. Focusing on behavioral health resources and substance abuse treatment is crucial for prevention efforts. As studies consistently show, locking everyone up and throwing away the key is not effective in reducing crime and has been a costly failure.
These solutions are not tied to any political party. Instead, they are solutions based on evidence and on the experience of other states that have successfully used data analytics in their approach to crime. These are but a few of the task force recommendations. To read all of the specific recommendations, go to www.nmlegis.gov. The Legislature is committed to working with all local governments to turn the corner on our state’s crime problem.
Crime hinders our efforts to grow our communities, create jobs and engage in worthwhile economic development programs, and we need effective solutions to keep our communities safe. HB 267, which proposes the system outlined by the commission and provides resources for the needs of the criminal justice system, has been filed. Please follow its progress during this legislative session.