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Sexual assault, opioid addiction targets of grants

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Department of Justice awarded seven public safety grants to Albuquerque, the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and Bernalillo, Doña Ana and Sierra counties, members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation announced Tuesday.

Two grants will fund Albuquerque’s initiative to investigate sexual assault cold cases and reduce the backlog in sexual assault kit testing. A statewide grant is designed to streamline DNA-testing capabilities. The funding for the counties is to address the opioid crisis on a local level with behavioral health tools.

“These grants to improve public safety are important steps forward in making New Mexico’s communities safer for all,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said in a news release. “When New Mexicans have the courage to come forward and report a sexual assault, they should be able to rely on public safety officials for a rapid and thorough response.”

“It is critical that New Mexico law enforcement has the resources and capabilities to properly care for survivors of sexual assault and address the opioid crisis that has left communities devastated,” said U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.

The Albuquerque Police Department has been awarded a $999,999 grant from the DOJ’s National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. The grant will help APD address the backlog in untested sexual assault evidence kits and implement a statewide tracking system to prevent future backlogs. The kits include DNA evidence of alleged sexual assaults and information with the potential to identify perpetrators. The grant will also fund any investigations resulting from the backlog testing. APD also received $406,107 through the DOJ’s DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction Program to process the backlog in DNA evidence and update testing equipment.

The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparations Commission has been awarded a $1 million grant to investigate sexual assault cold cases in the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which will provide funding to test archived kits and run the DNA evidence through a statewide database.

The New Mexico Department of Public Safety has been awarded a $611,967 grant for the DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction Program to reduce DNA processing turnaround and allocate more resources to forensic scientists in law enforcement.

Bernalillo, Sierra and Doña Ana counties have been awarded $2.7 million in total grants addressing the opioid crisis affecting local communities. The funds connect the counties with the national Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program and standardize databases that track prescription opioids and disburse resources that use community behavioral health interventions to prevent overdose and opioid-related deaths.

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