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APD initiative aims to combat domestic violence

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announce an initiative against domestic violence Tuesday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When an Albuquerque woman was punched, held down on a bed, choked with her own underwear and held at gunpoint by her boyfriend, who also tried to sexually assault her while her four children were in the next room, her co-workers had to persuade her to report the incident to police.

According to a search warrant filed in Metropolitan Court on Tuesday, she was worried about turning in the boyfriend’s cellphones, which he used to take pictures of her injuries, because she was worried he would retaliate. That’s a fear local law enforcement is trying to prevent.

The Albuquerque Police Department on Wednesday announced plans to collaborate with several groups in an effort to prevent, investigate and prosecute New Mexico’s domestic violence cases, which they said are major contributors to deadly violence.

In 2018, 20% of Albuquerque-area homicides were related to domestic violence, an APD spokesman said. This year, there have been 19 homicides – 14% of 65 cases – related to domestic violence.

In the past few days, APD said it arrested 39 individuals with warrants for charges such as battery against a household member, battery with a deadly weapon, criminal sexual penetration and child abuse.

Almost half those suspects are considered “habitual domestic violence offenders,” meaning they’ve been charged with or convicted of domestic violence offenses before.

The new initiative will target repeat offenders like these, APD Cmdr. Joe Burke told reporters Wednesday.

“We have to show them that there are consequences for their actions, and we are going to be diligent in pursuing them and holding them accountable,” he said.

To do so, Burke said, APD is seeking help from city officials, the Office of the Attorney General, state senators and local nonprofit organizations that help victims of domestic violence.

Attorney General Hector Balderas promised to prosecute domestic violence offenders quickly and said his office will start implementing statewide multidisciplinary domestic violence training for law enforcement officers.

By working along with partners, Balderas said, he hopes people charged with domestic violence offenses won’t be able to cheat the system any more, which he said happens frequently.

“Individuals that are on the run are a problem for our system,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t have the proper law enforcement resources so that we honor someone who has lost their life with timely investigation and prosecution.”

State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, offered legislative assistance, which could include allocating resources to store guns confiscated by police as the result of a restraining order or passing new laws to help protect victims.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller also expressed his support Wednesday.

“Hopefully because of the enhanced prosecution, we are going to get those violent offenders off of the streets and behind bars as quickly as possible,” he said. “It’s not just about a quick press release or a roundup of arrests; it’s about actually delivering justice to our communities and our families.”