ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A pair of lawmakers from different sides of the aisle offered specifics Tuesday on how they hope to tackle one of New Mexico’s most pressing issues: crime.
A day after Gov. Susana Martinez blasted lawmakers for not doing enough to curb the state’s crime problem, a Republican and a Democrat stood side-by-side and offered their solutions.
Key to that plan is stopping so-called catch-and-release, something Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto says as a former prosecutor is a problem he’s all too familiar with.
“If someone is on conditions of release for a felony, and they’re arrested for another felony, and either one involved violence or the potential for violence, then the court may presume that there are no conditions of release that will keep the public safe,” Ivey-Soto said.
A constitutional amendment voters passed last year has led to more suspects of violent crimes being released on their own recognizance, because until they’ve been proven guilty they should not be considered dangers to the public.
“It’s a scary situation to be on the streets of Albuquerque, the streets of New Mexico, because you don’t know who’s supposed to be behind bars or on bail,” Veronica Garcia said. Garcia lost her child to a violent crime.
Sen. Ivey-Soto (D) and Rep. Nate Gentry (R) are proposing a bill to give judges more criteria to define those suspects as dangerous. The plan involves bumping up penalties for being a felon with a gun, as well as expanding the definition of “violent crime” to include acts with potential for violence, like car thefts and home burglaries.
“They may happen to have broken into a house where no one was home, but the next time if someone is home that’s not a burglary, that’s a home invasion,” Sen. Ivey-Soto said.
They also want to expand the types of crimes that can be prosecuted under the state’s three-strikes law.
“Never mind the title of the crime, was there an intent to commit it with violence?” Ivey-Soto said.
Another proposal aims to help understaffed police departments by offering a $15,000 retention bonus for veteran officers.
“Hopefully this will provide incentive for our most experienced law enforcement officers to stick around,” Rep. Gentry said.
Gentry and Ivey-Soto are also proposing better treatment programs to address the mental health and substance abuse problems that often fuel criminal behavior.