Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The two candidates in the District 1 City Council race point to crime as the No. 1 concern of people in their district, and both say the city’s approach to the problem has not been working.
Louie Sanchez, 56, a businessman and former Albuquerque police officer, is vying to unseat incumbent Lan Sena, 31, who was appointed to fill the District 1 City Council vacancy that occurred with the Jan. 1 death of Ken Sanchez.
“I think that many of our constituents and members of the community are frustrated. And I see and feel that frustration because we are trying to address the same issue in the same way and yet expecting different results,” Sena said.
The city’s current approach to reducing crime has been “using our officers as a one-stop shop,” she said.
“I think that we need to stray away from that model,” she said. “I’ve done ride-alongs in every division of every department that impacts community safety, whether it’s police, fire, dispatch, transit and DMV security. Across the board, the No. 1 request from our officers is to not be responding to mental and behavioral health calls, to not be used as social workers to navigate our unsheltered folks. And that’s why I really champion community safety departments actually having social workers. … That does not mean that a call wouldn’t warrant a police response, but I think that they can go hand in hand and work together.”
Sena, who has a background in public health, said she approaches her City Council job as full time because “I believe that the pressing issues that our city and council districts face requires all of our attention.”
Sanchez, who retired as a lieutenant from APD in 2014 after a nearly 26-year career, now operates two Allstate insurance offices, including one at West Central and 60th, an area that has had a lot of crime.
Sanchez said he believes that the laws necessary to rein in crime are already on the books but that police officers are hampered in doing their jobs.
“They feel the police administration does not back them up, that they are without support,” he said.
The department does not have enough officers on the streets and has problems retaining the ones it has, he said, adding that the courts don’t keep criminals in jail and that the Department of Justice settlement with the city regarding police reform has caused confusion among officers.
“Officers are confused as to how and when they should use force. … I’ve been told by officers that if they get a 911 call, and somebody’s armed or there’s a possibility of violence, that they’re going to slow down on the call, and hopefully it’s over before they get there, because if they end up at the call and they have to use force, it will be scrutinized and Monday morning quarterbacked, and at that point they risk their job.”
On the proposed bond issue for a soccer stadium that’s going before voters on Nov. 2, Sanchez said he favors the construction of the stadium as long as New Mexico United “has some skin in the game” and signs a long-term contract or lease agreement with the city to help pay off the $50 million bond.
Sena said she does not favor the large investment in a soccer stadium.
“The economics of it, the finances of it, just don’t sit well with me,” she said. “I think that currently, we really need to be focusing in on a lot of the issues that we face, whether it is affordable housing, poverty, addiction and mental health services.”