Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Wednesday that she reestablished a multi-agency Organized Crime Commission. The governor said during a press conference that the reestablished commission is “indicative of the kind of leadership that is occurring in the state of New Mexico that is laser-focused on public safety” and holding “individuals conducting criminal activity accountable at every level in every single place in the state and doing it in such a fashion that lends itself to our federal partners and other states so that we’re collaborating across state lines on activity that we know is impacting individuals public safety right here in our state.”
Lujan Grisham said she brought back the commission to combat human trafficking, drug trafficking and illegal gun access. “The individuals who participate here today are going to be looking at ways to enhance our success and holding those individuals accountable,” Lujan Grisham said. “The individuals on the street that they recruit drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal gun access and distribution… which all lends itself into some of the worst public health outcomes the country has ever seen.”
Lujan Grisham did not know how long since the commission was last active; however’ the last formal report from the commission came in 1978. Gov. Bill Richardson, who held office from 2003-2011, reestablished the commission but the Lujan Grisham administration could not find documents from that era.
By Robert Nott and Nathan Lederman, The Santa Fe New Mexican
Lawmakers from both major parties are vowing to do something this year about the crime that worries and frightens New Mexicans. Just one week into this year’s 60-day legislative session, over 20 bills have been filed to crack down on crime, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has come out in support of ideas such as holding more suspected violent offenders in jail pretrial. As lawmakers weigh various get-tough measures, some progressive advocacy groups hope the Legislature does more to fight poverty, help children and the mentally ill and otherwise address the systemic problems that lead to crime instead of punitive policies that, they say, haven’t worked in the past. “We would be disingenuous if we said there is an immediate solution to this problem,” said Nayomi Valdez, director of public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. “We did not get here overnight.
Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina announced Monday afternoon that a suspect is in custody regarding the recent shootings of Democrats’ homes and offices.
“We do have a firearm in our possession that is linked to one of the shootings,” Medina said. “We are not going to get into details as this is still an active investigation.”
Medina declined to release the name of the person of interest, citing the investigation. The only information APD released about the person is that he is a male who is currently in custody on an unrelated charge. Law enforcement also have a firearm that may be connected to the shootings. “We never want this to happen,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said.
Democrats and Republicans rallied behind a package of crime and public safety legislation on Wednesday, lending a bipartisan stamp of approval to five very different bills that may not end long-running disputes over criminal sentencing or bail reform but which backers say represent a coordinated approach to one of the most pressing issues at the Roundhouse this year. Including mostly noncontroversial pieces of legislation from both sides of the aisle, parts of the package won support from a disparate group including the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Law Office of the Public Defender. The bill would toughen sentences in some respects but could also lighten sentences for minor offenses. The proposal would impose stiffer sentences for violent felons caught with a firearm while also ensuring some of the pettiest crimes — such as littering — are not punishable with jail time. The measure would also expand behavioral health services to jail inmates with mental illnesses, provide bonuses for long-serving police officers and stiffen the rules requiring DWI offenders to have ignition interlock devices removed from their vehicles.
In April, the city of Albuquerque seized Arlene Harjo’s car after police charged her son for driving under the influence of alcohol. Harjo said she lent the car to her son after he asked to use it to go to the gym. Instead, he went to visit his girlfriend in Texas and was pulled over and arrested by police on his way back. To get her car back, the city told Harjo she had to pay $4,000. Plus, city law enforcement would keep a boot on her car for a year and half before she could drive it again.
Among questions following the gruesome rape and murder last week of an Albuquerque girl that sent shockwaves across New Mexico is how one of the alleged perpetrators was present to commit the violence in the first place. Fabian Gonzales, one of three being charged in the murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, was supposed to be on supervised probation for a separate crime for a year-and-a-half before the night of Martens’ death. In Febraury 2015, a judge sentenced Gonzales, 31, to two years of probation after he pleaded guilty to battery and abandonment of a child. This two-year probation sentence, however, was never enforced. The sentence prohibited Gonzales from using illegal drugs and subjected him to random drug testing.
In the past few weeks, Albuquerque has seen headlines about a recent spike in the city’s crime. But as both property and violent crime in the city increases, two other key indicators dropped between 2014 and 2015: the number of police officers and arrests. Between the two years, the number of arrests recorded by the city dropped by 10 percent, or from 25,358 to 22,820. During that same period, the number of sworn Albuquerque Police Department officers shrunk by 8 percentage points, or from 903 cops to 832 cops. “There’s a direct correlation with having more patrol officers and having a drop in crime,” Shaun Willoughby, an APD detective president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said in an interview.
The House passed three bills on Thursday night that would increase penalties on crimes related to DWI. One would create a felony for those caught with a DWI while driving on a revoked license, another would add the fourth DWI penalty—which is the first DWI that qualifies as a felony—to the habitual offender statute and the third would increase penalties for the fourth through seventh DWI by a year and increases someone’s eighth DWI from a third degree felony to a second degree felony. The most-discussed bill involved creating a felony for a DWI while on a revoked license, though it was another smaller provision that was most controversial. Instead, it was the section that said anyone who knowingly permits someone on a revoked license will receive a felony that had many raising hypotheticals including those of a husband and wife who co-own a car. Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, said that the concerns were overblown.
The former Albuquerque Public Schools deputy superintendent who is facing child sexual abuse and domestic violence charges was booked into Denver jail on Wednesday. The Albuquerque Journal first reported the news on Wednesday, citing online court records. The newspaper says Jason Martinez is being held without bond. A spokeswoman with the District Attorney’s office in Denver confirmed the news to New Mexico Political Report. The spokeswoman, Lynn Kimbrough confirmed that he is being held in the Denver Detention Center.