November 30, 2015

Legislators told about NM’s high violent crime rate

New Mexico is the fourth worst state in America for violent crimes. Or maybe it’s the second.

Blue LightsBoth rankings were cited in testimony from Department of Public Safety Greg Fouratt in a Monday afternoon interim legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee hearing.

The two numbers come from interpretations of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which measures eight different types of crimes in states on a yearly basis. The website 24/7 Wall St., for example, ranked New Mexico with the fourth-most violent crime per 100,000 based on 2012 data and second-most violent based on 2013 data.

Fouratt said forcible rape and robbery are among the violent crime statistics that have gone up in recent years. He added that Española is the most violent city in the state,\ and that the city and Albuquerque fall in the top 5 percent of the most violent cities in America.

And Albuquerque, the state’s most populous city, is 2.4 times more violent than the nation’s average, according to New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas.

Among other things, Fouratt argued that these statistics were bad for attracting business to the state.

“I think from an economic development standpoint, I would worry about the safety of my employees if I were coming to the fourth or second most violent state in America,” he said.

Fouratt’s presentation is a precursor to a push for several “tough on crime” legislation measures in January when the next general Legislative session begins.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and several area Republican legislators announced last month they’d be proposing revamped “three strikes” penalties, making violence against cops a hate crime and stronger mandatory minimums. In a press conference earlier this month, Berry and Republican lawmakers called on the Legislature to act in response to several high-profile violent incidents in Albuquerque.

That same day, Senate Democrats accused Berry of politicizing the violence and blaming the Legislature for problems in his city.

As NM Political Report previously reported, the push for tougher crime laws comes at a time when much of the rest of the nation—including mainstream Republicans—is pushing the other direction for criminal justice reform.