SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s Attorney General is teaming up with a state lawmaker to change how cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women are handled. It’s been a problem for far too long.

“There have been generations and generations of missing and murdered women in New Mexico that have gone unsolved,” said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

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In 2017, a report found New Mexico to have the highest number of cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women, with 78. A recent 2020 report from a state task force on the issue revealed the system shortcomings, leading many of these cases to fall through the cracks. “The very first alarming reality was, it was a report that finally told the truth,” said Balderas.

He and State Senator Shannon Pinto are now announcing a bill to reform how these cases are handled. “This is a horrific, multigenerational failure that we’re just trying to step in and provide a more efficient system, a more effective system, and ultimately a more accountable and just system,” he said.

The bill calls for at least half a million dollars to be funded towards the issue. It would help bring on investigators, social workers, and prosecutors for these cases. It also demands communication across multiple agencies working on these cases.

“Law enforcement agencies, state, local and federal jurisdictions don’t talk to each other very well,” Balderas said. “So, we’re going to create a central house and work with federal authorities so we can begin getting proper notification and then sharing those, we will be mandated to share those with proper law enforcement agencies.”

The proposed legislation also aims to improve how data is collected on these cases, something the 2020 report said is lacking. Balderas said the bill also proposes a matching program where the state would match funding for rural communities that wanted to invest in training and social services to combat these unsolved cases. “These families go years and years without getting answers and they really should be getting information as well as justice in our legal system,” he said.

If passed, the law would go into effect immediately, according to the bill. The state’s 30-day legislative session starts on January 18.