ABQ lawmakers propose fixes to violent crime surge - Albuquerque Journal

ABQ lawmakers propose fixes to violent crime surge

Albuquerque police officials investigate a suspected homicide in this June file photo. New Mexico lawmakers are proposing a wide range of measures to address a rise in violent crime rates. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – After several recent high-profile shootings in Albuquerque, violent crime appears poised to be a major topic of debate during the 30-day legislative session that starts in January.

House Democrats from New Mexico’s largest city announced Thursday a comprehensive “crime-fighting” package that would include changes to the state’s pretrial detention system, expanded mental health treatment programs and increased criminal penalties.

In all, the package includes 16 proposals, though details on some of the items are not likely to be fully fleshed out until they are filed as bills.

And at least some of the provisions, such as extending prosecutors’ time limit for filing second-degree murder charges, have been previously pushed by House Republicans, who have urged Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to call a special session focused on crime.

In response to the Democrats’ announcement, House GOP floor leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, accused Democrats of helping to create a “rampant” crime problem.

“We hope they are as serious about addressing crime as they have been about coddling criminals throughout our communities,” Townsend said. “We also hope they start to give law enforcement the credit and respect they deserve. The disregard Democrat legislators have for our officers is simply not conducive to turning things around.”

However, Rep. Meredith Dixon, D-Albuquerque, said she’s hopeful some crime-related proposals, including a bill dealing with penalties for stealing copper materials, can win bipartisan support.

She also said lawmakers and top state officials increasingly agree a comprehensive approach is needed to reverse an increase in violent crime across New Mexico.

“There’s probably more consensus that stiffer penalties aren’t the only answer,” said Dixon, who recently accompanied law enforcement officers on patrol in her foothills-area legislative district.

Democratic lawmakers blocked many GOP-backed crime bills from advancing during the administration of former Gov. Susana Martinez, including a push to bring back the death penalty for those convicted of certain violent offenses.

However, proposals dealing with tougher penalties for drunken driving and distributing child pornography have been signed into law in recent years.

More recently, crime-related proposals were not a primary focus of this year’s 60-day legislative session, as measures dealing with pandemic relief, abortion, public schools and legalizing recreational cannabis all drew lengthy debates.

But things could be different in 2022, after the recent shooting of three Albuquerque police officers – another officer was also injured in the incident – and the shooting death of a 13-year-old boy at his middle school have prompted calls for action.

Albuquerque has already set a yearly record for homicides with 86 suspected killings, and other types of violent crime have also increased, though the metro area’s auto theft rate has dropped by 42% since 2017.

Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, the chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the proposed crime package backed by 18 House Democrats from Albuquerque would take a “multi-faceted approach” to addressing violent crime.

“What’s become evident is that while we have been increasing our investments in long-term solutions like education, families, and mental and behavioral health, much more needs to be done to address the violence happening today,” Chasey said in a statement.

For her part, Lujan Grisham has said she wants to see changes to New Mexico’s pretrial detention system aimed at making it easier to keep people charged with violent offenses behind bars pending trial, though some fellow Democrats oppose such a plan.

The governor, who has the power to determine which non-budgetary bills can be discussed during 30-day legislative sessions, has also said she wants lawmakers to approve $100 million to fund an additional 1,000 police officer positions throughout the state during next year’s session.

Meanwhile, the legislative focus on crime-related issues comes with a new election cycle on the horizon. All 70 House seats will be up for election in 2022, along with statewide offices for governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » ABQ lawmakers propose fixes to violent crime surge

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Housing Trust funds boost 4 projects
ABQnews Seeker
Over $2M approved by the New ... Over $2M approved by the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority
A half-century later, activist and NM native Dolores Huerta ...
ABQnews Seeker
Huerta is back in her native ... Huerta is back in her native New Mexico to participate the 30th Annual César Chávez and Dolores Huerta Celebration on Saturday, March 25, at ...
Javonte Johnson latest Lobo to enter transfer portal
ABQnews Seeker
Javonte Johnson, who started 65 games ... Javonte Johnson, who started 65 games at UNM, is the fourth Lobo this week to enter the NCAA transfer portal.
PBR in the Pit? It’s a slam dunk says ...
ABQnews Seeker
Ty Murray feels right at home ... Ty Murray feels right at home in the Pit, where the annual PBR tour stop has become a huge hit for fans and the ...
New Mexico State hires Jason Hooten as men's basketball ...
ABQnews Seeker
Jason Hooten, who coached the past ... Jason Hooten, who coached the past 19 years at Sam Houston State is the new men's basketball coach of the NMSU Aggies.
Geothermal development incentives on governor’s desk
ABQnews Seeker
If signed, the bill would expand ... If signed, the bill would expand Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department duties to promote the industry in the state through newly established accounts ...
Albuquerque city councilors make $33,660 a year. That could ...
ABQnews Seeker
Citizen committee that sets elected official ... Citizen committee that sets elected official pay wants city councilors to get 87% raise
Biden might keep Space Command in Colorado. That would ...
ABQnews Seeker
The head of a business group ... The head of a business group that supports Kirtland Air Force Base says ABQ’s proximity to Space Command in Colorado Springs helps Kirtland's Space ...
Albuquerque city councilor says this year is his last
ABQnews Seeker
District 2 rep Isaac Benton came ... District 2 rep Isaac Benton came into office in 2005