It’s easy to understand why crime-weary residents of Bernalillo County might subscribe to the “lock ’em up” approach to policing. The level of drugs and property crime and the fact that we’re a national leader in auto theft aren’t just things you read about. They touch people’s lives.
But in many cases, “lock ’em up” isn’t smart or effective. Local law enforcement is implementing a better way.
The Albuquerque Police Department last week announced it is joining other agencies in a behavioral health initiative that gives authorities the discretion to offer treatment to those who commit low-level crimes related to addiction or mental health instead of hauling them to jail.
“We want to try to solve the causes of some of these low-level offenses … and get them help so they don’t re-offend,” APD Deputy Chief Eric Garcia said alongside Mayor Tim Keller and District Attorney Raúl Torrez as they announced the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program.
Low-level crimes eligible for the program, which APD will start with officers in the International District, include minor drug possession, prostitution, vagrancy, loitering and property crime committed to feed an addiction. Anyone accused of a violent felony, crimes against children or drug-dealing for profit would not be eligible. In cases where there is a victim, the victim would have to agree to the diversion.
“This is not a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card,'” Garcia said. “They’ll still be accountable for any future crimes.”