BERNALILLO COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Big changes are coming to how shoplifting cases are going to be handled. Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman announced Tuesday that accused criminals will now face a special team of prosecutors.
“We want cops to be cops and by making them be prosecutors it takes cops off the streets,” said Bregman.
Up until this month, Albuquerque Police and Bernalillo County deputies have been saddled with prosecuting misdemeanor shoplifting cases on their own. “We didn’t have lawyers in metro court handling those cases, we didn’t have prosecutors handling those cases,” said Bregman.
Bregman said that the system isn’t working. “Last year in metropolitan court for the 662 misdemeanor cases there was a conviction rate of 15 percent,” Bregman explained.
Instead, 14 attorneys from Bregman’s office will take on the job. “We have 14 prosecutors one in each courtroom we will do the absolute best we can with the resources we have and I do not believe in any way this is going to hurt the prosecution of other cases,” said Bregman.
The plan has already gained support from the leaders of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) and Albuquerque Police Department (APD). “This is big news. We’ve talked about how we’re tired of it but we need to talk about how the community is tired of it,” said BCSO Sheriff John Allen.
“We’ve many times said that the criminal justice system needs a revamp, and it’s the criminal justice system needs to function at every single level as we continue to move forward. It’s steps like these that are going to help us succeed,” said APD Chief Harold Medina.
The change follows a new law now allowing prosecutors to add shoplifting cases together into a felony charge. Some New Mexico state representatives still say more needs to be done. “We absolutely need to increase our behavioral health, mental health services in this state,” said Rep. Marian Matthews.
The new prosecution team just got started on Friday, Sept. 1.