Target violent offenders, help those fighting addiction

Victims of violent crime, their families, and everyday Burqueños are done with the finger-pointing and partisan bickering, especially from outside critics who care little and understand less about our city except when politically convenient. People are demanding solutions that work, not empty rhetoric, to our city’s violent crime epidemic.

To that end, we’ve proudly joined criminal justice leaders from across the city through efforts like the city’s Metro Crime Initiative to develop new strategies and policies that address crime and resolve gaps in collaboration between stakeholders.

As the city hits disturbing and unacceptable levels of violent crime, let’s take stock of what’s been tried and failed, and where we must make changes.

For starters, the failed war on drugs, with its so-called “tough-on-crime” laws both parties have supported but which Republicans are once again proposing, did little more than waste billions of dollars over decades while destroying New Mexican families. Laws like “3-Strikes You’re Out” would only serve to pack our jails full of New Mexicans whose only crime was treating their trauma, physical or mental illness with readily available yet criminalized drugs. We must continue to invest and rebuild a modern rehabilitation system that treats addiction as an illness worthy of a cure, especially after the dismantling of our behavioral health system under our previous governor.

We must also recognize our judicial system seems to have swung too far the other way when it comes to the most dangerous criminals. Bernalillo County’s pretrial detention system is failing to hold accountable violent offenders, resulting in a revolving door that’s without strong supervision and monitoring of those that are released. This is a demoralizing message for our law enforcement officers who work hard every day to keep these violent criminals off our streets. As a Legislature, we must do a better job of incentivizing judges and district attorneys to use their discretion to ensure that violent criminals are kept off the street.

A new approach is critically needed. We know our families want to live in safe neighborhoods, our police desperately need additional personnel and efficient coordination with other agencies to effectively do their jobs, and our community leaders are calling for an end to policies that target their marginalized communities while failing to invest in future opportunities that give folks a legitimate way to get ahead.

That’s why House Democrats have proposed a comprehensive legislative package that makes necessary adjustments to our pretrial detention system, implements common-sense gun safety measures to reduce high-capacity magazines like those used to injure four APD officers last month, criminalizes the failure to properly store firearms to prevent another school shooting like the one at Washington Middle School, and funding increases to train, recruit and retain more law enforcement officers, as well as for violence intervention and prevention programs and tougher penalties for second-degree murder.

New Mexico is finally beginning to invest the resources necessary to break the generations-long cycles of poverty that are well-documented to contribute to violent crime. Now, we must use the time remaining before the next legislative session to build a consensus around effective crime-fighting legislation that delivers a safer New Mexico today, and in the days, weeks and years ahead.

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