ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department has ordered thousands of decks of playing cards featuring the faces of unsolved crime victims, but a couple of the cards have people wondering what Sheriff Dan Houston was thinking.
"Part of giving hope to these families that live with the agony of these types of crime - it never goes away for them. It's important for us to let them know that we haven't given up," Houston said.
The decks of cards were the suggestion of a former cold case detective who thought it might be a good way to drum up some leads on some of these decades-old unsolved murders and missing person cases.
The sheriff said criminals who are locked up are the target demographic to distribute the cards to.
"It's basically recognizing that a lot of times our best leads and information are obviously from the criminals," said Houston.
The department was able to come up with enough money for 10,000 decks. According to the sheriff, half came from a federal drug grant, the other half from sponsors not everyone thinks are appropriate.
"I think it produces a little bit of a conflict with the Sheriff's Department who's investigating crimes and arresting people with the companies and businesses that turn right around to get them out," said Kyle Hartsock, President of the Bernalillo County Deputy Sheriff's Association.
Five thousand decks come with a card advertising a defense attorney on one side and a bail bonds company on the other side.
"A better way to go about it would be to find programs that inmates could actually use to better their lives in terms of rehab programs or reunification programs with their families or children," Hartsock said.
Houston said he did not think there was anything wrong with the types of companies advertised on the card.
"I don't personally see that as an ethical problem," Houston said.
It is not just that card that is making people do a double-take.
Another card featuring Houston, which is included in all the decks, is also raising some eyebrows considering the sheriff is running for re-election.
He told News 13 this was not a campaign ad.
"I don't think it's improper for me to let people know who the sheriff is," he said.
Houston added that a lot of the people who would see the cards probably cannot vote because they're convicted felons.
Aside from the ads on the cards, the union does agree with the sheriff that these cards are a good way to try and get some new leads on these cases in order to provide the victims' families with some closure.
The goal is to get the decks distributed to jails in Valencia, Sandoval and Torrance counties.
Houston said they are also in contact with the state to get some decks distributed in prisons around the state as well.
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