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DA: Swift action is lowering ABQ’s crime rates

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There’s a need for speed in the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which was highlighted in a recent report from the office.

A biennial report titled “Impact Prosecution” was released by prosecutors Tuesday. The report outlines several of the office’s efforts that aimed to curb crime rates throughout the city, such as changing the culture within the office, creating a Crime Strategies Unit and better understanding criminal networks.

The report said increasing the pace it takes for a case to go from investigation to charges filed in court may have had the most dramatic effect on crime.

Albuquerque has seen a decrease in crime since the summer of 2017. The recent decrease ended the longest and steepest crime spike in the past 25 years, which happened between 2013 and 2016, according to the report.

The report says that for many criminal defendants, quickly bringing a case against them is the most effective way to stop further criminal activity.

“For most medium- and low-risk offenders, speed and certainty are the most important factors in deterring future criminal activity,” the report says.

Between 2015 and 2016, it would take on average 169 days once a criminal case was opened until charges were filed in court. Since 2017, that time has dropped to 69 days.

District Attorney Raúl Torrez since taking office two years ago has stressed the importance of swiftly holding people accountable for their crimes while also offering many low-level criminals chances to reform themselves.

Officials with the prosecutors’ office couldn’t be reached Tuesday evening.

Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said the department hired several paralegals who give prosecutors regular updates on criminal cases, which could have an effect on the pace of criminal cases in the county.

“As we began to overhaul the police department to put more resources into communities, we recognized the paralysis that resulted from the poor relationship in the past between APD and other institutions that play pivotal roles in the justice system,” Gallegos said.

Tuesday’s report from prosecutors wasn’t the first time that officials have stressed the importance of a swift criminal justice system.

Last year, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee program evaluators and analysts found that the certainty and swiftness of being caught are effective ways to deter crime. A focus on harsh prison sentences hasn’t been found to be as effective, according to a review of criminal justice in Bernalillo County that was presented to a criminal justice task force.