ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Wednesday, Mayor Tim Keller, Albuquerque Police Department leadership, and state legislators gave an update on the Metro Crime Initiative and discussed getting help from state lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session.
APD says it talked to its officers and community partners about the biggest problems they see on the streets and what kind of policies could help.
“That’s what MCI is all about. It’s about shared accountability. It’s about shared responsibility. And most importantly, it’s about short term action,” said Mayor Tim Keller in a press conference on Wednesday. One of the biggest issues they found were gaps in laws to tackle gun violence.
“The difference between a violent crime, a deadly crime, and a loss of life, is typically the involvement of a firearm. And because of that, the criminal justice system should reflect the enhancement that a life could be lost,” said Mayor Keller.
Along with state legislatures, APD announced bills they are hoping to get passed during the upcoming legislative session. One of those bills would increase the penalty of shooting randomly into a crowded area from a petty misdemeanor to a fourth degree felony. Another proposed bill would allow firearms used in a drug crime to be charged separately.
“Both of these proposals are meant to give more tools to a district attorney to charge,” said Damon Martinez, Chief Policy Advisor for APD. Another bill aims to amend the state’s ‘Red Flag Law,’ by giving officers 24-7 access to judges and adding a search warrant provision.
Representative Pamela Herndon is re-introducing the Benny Hargrove Act, which would hold gun owners accountable if their guns get into the hands of criminals or kids.
“The purpose of the legislation is not to create another criminal penalty but the purpose of the legislation is to remind gun owners and firearm owners that you have a responsibility to keep those firearms safely secured if you decide to own on. And when you are negligent in that responsibility there will be a penalty,” said Representative Herndon.
The parents of Benny Hargrove, who was fatally shot by a classmate while standing up to a bully at school, called it a ‘common sense’ law.
“The parents of Benny’s murderer have not been charged with any crimes although their 13-year-old son was allowed access to a firearm. And that firearm was used in my son’s murder,” said Benny’s mother at the press conference.
Other bills MCI is pushing for pertain to officers. One bill aims to retain officers by having the state help pay for health benefits once an officer has served for 25 years. Another bill focuses on recruitment, allowing officers from another state with at least five years experience to more easily transfer into a job here, without starting over.
Another bill focuses on the fentanyl crisis and would allow funds to be locally for drug education and investigative technology.
“It will be allowed to be on crime fighting technology with approval with civil oversight, not for profit of law enforcement agency, but for good of the community,” said Martinez.
Another bill, sponsored by Representative Marian Matthews (D- Albuquerque), tries to tackle organized retail crime by giving new tools to prosecutors to charge offenders. It includes making sure the robbery statute applies to more offenses and making sure the value merchandise stolen among different stores can be aggregated, so penalties can reflect ‘the damage done.’
At the press conference, Mayor Keller highlighted the need for funding. He said there are about 7,000 arrests made a year in the metro-area, 4,000 are cases that can be prosecuted, but that the courts can only handle about 2,000. He also said there are about 10,000 outstanding warrants.
The city also is giving $775,000 to support programs in the court system, including $700,000 for outpatient treatment, $25,000 for the pre-prosecution diversion program, and $50,000 to hire a case manager for the court’s behavioral health unit.