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Law enforcement and political leaders met in Albuquerque for the second time in less than a week to discuss the warrant backlog and ask for money, this time doubling their request.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said during a briefing Wednesday that they are now asking legislators for a $20 million warrant fund. On Friday, Keller held a similar briefing and asked for $10 million.
“We decided to up the ask … double than what we asked for before,” Keller said. “And there’s an important reason for that. … We want to make that funding applicable to every piece of the system that is required with respect to warrants and warrant processing.”
Keller said increased funding will give them more cash for the court system and “possibly even the jails” along with “every aspect that’s needed to really digest that warrant through the judicial system.”
The Bernalillo County warrant database showed of the 5,344 active felony warrants at least 1,000 – or 18% – were for violent crimes, from battery and assault to armed robbery and homicide.
Some of the homicides and other cases go back decades, such as one warrant for first-degree murder from 1982, according to the database.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said “it’s not as simple as going and knocking on a door” and sometimes takes a lengthy investigation to find those with active warrants.
“We’re going to identify which are the most active warrants – the individuals we think are the drivers of crime – and we will focus on those warrants first,” he said. “The homicide warrants are obviously a priority … and some of those violent crimes that are included.”
Medina said they also will target warrants for “the activities that lead to violent crime” like selling drugs.
“Although they may not be violent, but we know they do become violent, and those are key individuals for us to take into custody,” he said.
Many of the warrants were for nonviolent offenses.
The database showed more than 1,000 active felony warrants for drug possession, 255 DWI-related, at least 500 for auto theft, 200 for shoplifting, and several hundred for lesser crimes such as fraud, littering and writing worthless checks.
There are also more than 60,000 misdemeanor warrants and officials are considering voluntary warrant surrender days to close some of those.
Keller said the funding would also serve those being rounded up for active warrants and their families as authorities “amp up the volume” on arrests.
“To reduce risk and make sure that there is no unnecessary harm done to the individual, but most importantly, to the family as well,” he said.
Those considerations include alternatives to jail, mental health concerns for those being sought and possible danger for officers conducting warrant arrests.