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Editorial: DA’s data could help APD reduce city’s gun violence

With about 300 shooting victims in Bernalillo County, and more than 80 homicides in the county and Albuquerque last year, innovative programs directed at reducing gun violence in the Metro are certainly welcome.

Kyle Hartsock, special agent in charge of the Crime Strategies Unit at the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, says his group has made an interactive, in-depth dashboard on every shooting since 2018 accessible on the web. To address the scourge that is gun violence and change behaviors, “It’s one thing to know there’s a shooting, but it’s equally important to know who got shot, who likely did the shooting and why the shooting happened in the first place. It allows people to take those more proactive measures.”

That kind of data should be valuable to Albuquerque’s Violence Intervention Program, which begins with an APD commander knocking at a person’s door with a personalized letter detailing that person’s criminal history. Talk about a surprise visit during a dinner party!

The “target” is told of the potential for more serious legal consequences, or the possibility of being seriously hurt or killed, if he or she continues to engage in gun violence. The commander then offers to connect the person with resources like job training, food banks, rental assistance or help getting into school.

That sounds promising, especially considering 292 people had been shot this year in Bernalillo County as of Dec. 22; those numbers do not include suicides and accidental shootings. Moreover, there had been 76 homicides in Albuquerque and eight in Bernalillo County as of Dec. 30.

Violence Intervention Program manager Gerri Bachicha says workers performed 74 interventions between late March and mid-December and none of the people they visited has committed a crime they know of since. That’s impressive.

While some of those chosen for interventions have been victims themselves and others were merely at the scene of a shooting or otherwise connected to one, APD says almost all of the targets are involved in criminal groups or gangs and are statistically more likely to be jailed or harmed through gun violence.

Interim Police Chief Harold Medina and Mayor Tim Keller participated in a notification in mid-December. “We see the potential with assisting parents and making sure that they know the resources that are available to them to help their adult kids and make sure that their adult kids keep moving in the right direction,” Medina told the Journal. “That’s on the side of building trust, understanding and having empathy with the community, on the one hand. But on the other hand, we deliver the message that if you’re engaged in violent crime, we’re going to be a law enforcement agency, and we’re going to take you into custody.”

The DA’s wealth of data can only help APD in its program.

So here’s to APD and other agencies exploring and implementing proactive crime-reduction efforts and making full use of the DA’s new database, to helping turn lives around and to tracking the effectiveness of such programs.

Let’s hope many of those contacted by APD’s Violence Intervention Program will avail themselves of the school, job, food, rental and other assistance.

But for those unreceptive to such messaging, it’s essential law enforcement also sends the message stressing the consequences individuals face if they choose the criminal path.

The “custom notifications” are an innovative approach, a sort of 21st century scared straight intervention program via correspondence and a home visit.

With so much gun violence in our Metro, it makes sense for law enforcement to work together on innovative programs to steer individuals away from criminal activity – activity that not only harms the community, but also those committing the crimes and their families.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.