ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman says crime is getting better in Albuquerque. During a news conference Thursday morning, he highlighted the success of his six months in office.
Bregman contrasted figures from the first six months of his appointment to the role with the entire previous year. He reiterated several times this is not a ‘victory lap,’ but he says the needle on crime is moving in the right direction. “I’m telling you, I believe things are starting to get better when it comes to crime in Bernalillo County,” Bregman says, standing in front of a rolling slide of mugshots of those detained, convicted, and sentenced.
The biggest job, he says, has been getting more prosecutors in the door. “We needed more prosecutors when I got in this office. We now have hired 35 prosecutors in six months. In the entire last year, before this year in 2022, this office hired 12 total,” Bregman says.
With nearly three times more attorneys hired for the job, Bregman says their caseloads have gotten smaller. In their major crimes division – which prosecutes cases like homicides – there are 365 open cases this year. “The average number of open cases per attorney is 32, and the average number of homicide cases per attorney is 27….I can tell you anecdotally when I first got in here and this job, my understanding was homicide attorneys had around 50 cases a piece,” Bregman says.
For prosecutors dealing with cases ranging from car burglary to drug trafficking – the average caseloads are 30% less compared to 2022. “The more we bring in new attorneys, the more we unclog the bottleneck, the more opportunity for each attorney to spend on each case. Therefore, we’re doing better justice by making sure people are, in fact, taking the time necessary to prepare and present that case,” Bregman says.
The district attorney says overall, they’ve tried 137 cases in the last six months, with 88 of them leading to convictions – a nearly 65% conviction rate. Bregman says they have close to 100 prosecutors currently on staff, and they hope to hire up to 20 more lawyers while he is the district attorney.
Bregman also spoke about his successes with pretrial detention motions as well as indictments. “We’ve indicted, in the six months, 408 people. We’ve launched over 820 cases since we’ve been. 800 and some felonies, let me add. And I’m very happy with that,” Bregman says.
“Number of trials in this office: Felony trials in the entire year of 2022 was 57. In the six months in 2023, we’ve tried just about the same number in six months as we did all last year,” Bregman says.
Bregman touted funding for a pre-prosecution diversion program in his office meant to keep people out of the justice system. “We have literally just received one of the biggest grants they’ve ever given, the $580,000, for the diversion program, and that’s going to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”
“We had 308 total active participants in this office last year. Today, in six months, we have 357 active participants,” Bregman says.
Bregman spoke about his Zero-Tolerance Policy towards guns on campuses and the current caseload involving juveniles with guns. “We have juvenile cases involving a firearm just in 2023 of 150. We have 150 different cases in this community where juveniles were found with a firearm or used a firearm.”
Additionally, Bregman spoke about his office’s focus on organized retail crime. “In the past, shoplifting cases that are misdemeanors are officer-prosecuted cases,” Bregman says, “They will continue to prosecute misdemeanors; however, this office before and this has changed now. We are going to track, which we didn’t do before, every single person who is charged with shoplifting…We’re going to keep an eye on it. So, if they meet a certain threshold, we’re going to charge them with a felony; but let’s say they don’t meet that threshold, but they’re constantly shoplifting, we’re going to jump in those cases.”
The news conference closed with a nod toward statistics provided by the Albuquerque Police Department. “Robbery’s down by 53%. Homicides are down by 20%. Auto theft is down by 16%. Burglaries are down by 18%. Is this a victory lap? No. This is just the beginning,” Bregman says.