As residents of Albuquerque, many of us have friends or family whose lives have been turned upside down by crime. And as state representatives for Albuquerque, crime is the No. 1 priority we hear from our constituents – and they want their elected officials to do something about it. Many of our constituents have had their property stolen or damaged, homes broken into, or even lost a loved one to violence or drugs.
Well before this legislative session, confronting Albuquerque’s chronic crime was a priority for us and our colleagues in the House Democratic caucus. Over the summer, many of us participated in the Albuquerque Metro Crime Initiative organized by the mayor and engaged with various stakeholders within the criminal justice system. Together, we crafted an evidence-based, multifaceted crime package to take bold action to address the crime epidemic that persistently plagues our state’s largest city.
With bipartisan support and unprecedented state revenues, the Legislature passed comprehensive public safety legislation that takes action to make our community safer while also working to address the underlying causes of crime, such as poverty and substance abuse.
In response to concerns we heard from our districts, we sponsored several public safety bills, including legislation to create new penalties to crack down on the illicit market for stolen cars and auto parts, offer retention stipends to experienced police officers, and strengthen penalties for violent crimes committed with a firearm. Ultimately, many of our House public safety priorities were combined into a public safety omnibus bill, HB 68, which passed both chambers with strong bipartisan support.
Through the state’s budget, we made unprecedented investments in public safety and smart, targeted approaches to confront crime from every angle as key components of the state’s budget. We made sizable investments in recruiting, training and retaining police officers and allocated $20 million for a state police command center in Albuquerque.
We also know that to have a lasting effect, we must address underlying health and behavioral conditions to lower crime and recidivism and utilize treatment over punishment for certain low-level offenses. Accordingly, our state budget makes investments in evidence-based preventative measures such as treatment, behavioral health care, transitional housing and data-driven violence intervention programs. We recognize throwing people in jail without behavioral health and addiction treatment will not solve our crime crisis.
At the time of writing this, Albuquerque has already reported 19 homicides in 2022 after a record-breaking 2021. This is not a partisan issue. Our constituents do not want to see finger-pointing or political posturing.
Our work to make New Mexico a safer place to raise families is ongoing, but we are proud of the progress we made with this unprecedented public safety budget and comprehensive crime bill.