ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, globally, one in three women experienced physical or sexual violence by their partner before the pandemic. And those numbers have only gotten worse, including in Albuquerque.
“We see the violence is up. The violence is more intense. We’re seeing an increase in sexual assault and domestic violence cases,” Gail Starr, the Clinic Coordinator for Albuquerque SANE said.
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Several groups, including New Mexico Legal Aid and Albuquerque SANE, are calling on city leaders for help. They sent a letter to Mayor Tim Keller and Police Chief Harold Medina asking them to create a special domestic violence unit within APD. The groups say it’s not a want; it’s a need.
“If we had this unit, they would provide, they could filter those cases that cause homicides, deaths, serious bodily injury by handling them before the homicide,” Quintin McShan, a law enforcement trainer, said.
At one time, APD had a unit that handled domestic violence cases, but it was disbanded and never replaced. The department says their Impact unity handles these cases now, but the groups feel it’s not enough.
“When we see a very dangerous call, we need to be able to call a detective. We need to be able to reach out and say this is one that’s high risk, and we need immediate help,” Starr said.
APD says a domestic violence unit is a long-term goal, but they don’t have enough officers right now. Although they are working toward a solution.
“The creation of a domestic violence unit at APD is a long-term goal for the department. Staffing at APD does not currently support a new unit, however domestic violence cases do not fall by the wayside. APD’s Impact Unit handles these cases with care and compassion for those impacted. We are currently in the process of selecting officers to be a part of the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART). 50 officers who work in the field will go through specialized training to handle domestic violence calls and this team will be on collateral duty. In May, APD was notified that it was selected to receive a Law Enforcement Violent Crime Victim Assistants award in the amount of $150,000. The additional funding is going toward DART which will provide immediate community-based services on the scenes of domestic violence incidents. The purpose of the project is to empower victims to make educated decisions that positively affect the safety of the family involved. In addition, the project will focus on active collaborations with APD and other support agencies to facilitate a coordinated response to victims. The grant funds are being used to supply the field officers in DART with iPads to facilitate on-scene communication with the Domestic Violence Resource Center (DVRC) advocates through a Zoom meeting. The grant will also support the hiring of a part-time temporary employee to serve as the liaison between DART officers, victims, and advocates through the DVRC. The Victim Assistance Unit has also expanded and those individuals are on staff to assist victims of domestic violence and those impacted by violent crime, providing them support and resources needed.”-APD
On Monday, the Mayor and several city councilors announced the start of a domestic violence commission within Albuquerque to address gaps and support victims.