The crime problem in Albuquerque can often seem like an overwhelming issue. In a city with high rates of poverty, behavioral health issues and transgenerational trauma, community leaders have been working to come up with smart solutions that aren’t one-size-fits-all. Many of us are seeing the need for a holistic approach to crime that is focused on prevention, but also works across different points in the criminal justice system.
In the past legislative session, lawmakers took important steps, like passing the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which helps us focus on accountability and treatment to aid addiction and prevent crime. The bill also includes a behavioral health framework to assist juveniles and adults with reentry into our communities. As New Mexico attempts to move away from increased incarceration as a way to tackle public safety, we will continue our work to address underlying and systemic deficiencies in the criminal justice system as a whole.
I am working with my colleagues in the Legislature to keep violent re-offenders off the streets. Currently, we do not have a tool to help us identify criminals who have the propensity to re-commit violent offenses with a firearm – but we desperately need one. Those who threaten our communities repeatedly should not have access to firearms. We want to work with the criminal justice system to give the courts, the district attorneys and the public defenders the tools they need so we don’t create a revolving door of violent offenders. Violent offenders should not have access to firearms and should not be released when they are likely to re-offend.
We also need to address the root of the problem and prevent crime from happening in the first place. In 2013, New Mexico’s former governor decimated our state’s behavioral health system – accusing communities across our state of fraud. These claims were found to be completely false, but the damage was already done. The state’s behavioral health system is still recuperating from this devastating accusation and major changes in funding that impacted access to care for New Mexicans all over the state.
We need to ensure ample funding to rebuild our behavioral health system. Hard-working New Mexicans are paying into a punitive system that does nothing to address and prevent crime – only to keep it cyclical. It’s time we change that. In the next legislative session, we will be working to expand access to behavioral health for New Mexicans. As we work on other efforts to reform public education and better serve our New Mexican communities, we can work to address issues of poverty, as well.
This is not a partisan issue. Every person in New Mexico has a vested interest in stopping crime because it’s our tax dollars that pay to keep offenders locked up. But none of that money does anything to prevent crime with interventions that have been shown to work. We must do better at identifying interventions and treatment options so we can save our taxpayers money and create safer communities.
Addressing the crime problem is a heavy lift, but in no way is it impossible. As we all work across communities to fix issues within our system and come up with smart solutions, we can start to see changes that will have positive impacts on our state for years to come. By addressing crime holistically, we can create a new generation of New Mexicans who feel safe in the Land of Enchantment, and want to stay here to build their families and their lives.