As city leaders tout a 0.3% drop in crime, startling events in the last few days show it’s not necessarily trickling down to our youth.
An 18-year-old and two 17-year-olds were charged this week with multiple counts of armed robbery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon following an afternoon of carjacking mayhem in Southwest Albuquerque that resulted in multiple crashes and left bullet holes in at least one home.
And two girls, one 13 and the other 14, were charged this week with kidnapping, aggravated battery and conspiracy after a 13-year-old girl was severely beaten in a park in Southeast Albuquerque. An arrest warrant also has been issued for a 12-year-old girl who allegedly was involved.
In the carjacking case, one woman said she was driving to her son’s baseball game near 86th and Tower when she stopped for three teens in a crosswalk. The teens surrounded her car and demanded it at gunpoint.
Shortly later, a woman was waiting for her children near Westgate Community Park when two teens got out of a vehicle and stole her SUV at gunpoint. Then a couple reported driving near Carlos Rey Elementary when a young man got out of a heavily damaged car and attempted to carjack them at gunpoint; they sped away.
Another woman says she was blocked by a vehicle at Barbados and Gibson and three teens with guns got out and carjacked her, leaving in her vehicle and another.
And yet another a woman said teens followed and shot at her after she witnessed a carjacking on 98th.
The chaos finally ended when one of the carjacked vehicles crashed near Atrisco and Bridge. Police say they found three handguns where the teens were detained, including one that had been modified to fire fully automatic.
So — where did these young men get the firearms? (State law says you have to be 19 to own a handgun). Police say one of the 17-year-olds was “too intoxicated to be interviewed.” (The legal age to drink alcohol and ingest recreational cannabis is 21.) We may be naive to think parents still have control over young men this age. But still, we ask — where were their parents?
Meanwhile the assault on the 13-year-old girl March 12 at Jack & Jill Park near San Pedro and Zuni didn’t involve guns, but it was brutally violent and stoked by social media. And these were young girls, barely in their teens.
Albuquerque police say a group of girls severely beat the 13-year-old girl who had snuck out of her home to go to a party in Southeast Albuquerque. Again we ask, where were the parents?
Violent crimes may have dropped 4% last year according to the Albuquerque Police Department, but these melees show how we are failing our children. If multiple carjackings and an orchestrated group beating don’t scream crisis of youth violence, what does?
State lawmakers are taking steps to keep guns out of the hands of children, passing the Bennie Hargrove bill in the recently concluded legislative session that makes it a crime to fail to store firearms out of children’s reach, and closing a straw buyer loophole to keep guns out of the hands of those who legally aren’t allowed to have a gun. But lawmakers failed to increase the minimum age to buy certain firearms from 18 to 21 or ban assault weapons, and the state’s Children Youth and Families Department — which “provides an array of prevention, intervention, rehabilitative and after-care services to New Mexico children and their families” — remains in disarray and shrouded in secrecy.
At the federal level, last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act extends background checks for purchasers under 21, funds state red-flag laws and other crisis intervention programs, and further criminalizes arms trafficking and straw purchases. On Thursday U.S. Rep Melanie Stansbury paid tribute to Hargrove, killed by a 14-year-old at Washington Middle School in 2021, and called on colleagues to support gun safety legislation.
We need a unified legislative branch at state and federal levels committed to common-sense gun safety and getting and keeping our youth on a better path.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.