Legislative Finance Committee reports crime on the rise in 20 New Mexico communities

By Robert Nott Santa Fe’s New Mexican

Lawmakers seeking to pass a series of “tough on crime” bills got legislative ammunition to bolster their cause this week.

The Legislative Finance Committee released a memo to Rep. Patti Lundstrom, chair of the committee, saying violent crime rates are rising, and not just in Albuquerque.

The memo says at least 20 communities in New Mexico — including Gallup and Albuquerque — have seen increases in violent crime.

Santa Fe was not one of those cities.

The LFC document says Albuquerque’s 2021 homicide rate of 117 murders represented a “significant increase” from 2020 – a jump of 48%.

And New Mexico State Police investigated 17 homicides in 2021, compared to 10 in 2020.

Sobering details from the memo include that the reasons for Albuquerque’s homicide rates have changed dramatically over the past year. In 2019, only 15% of these murders were committed as a result of theft or because of a “lack of personal respect”.

In 2021, this rate was 65%.

Some of these killings are the result of what the memo calls “drug rips,” where a dealer and buyer make a deal online for a sale, then the buyer shoots the dealer in an attempt to steal the drugs. .

The LFC memo came a day before Governor Michelle Grisham Lujan was due to deliver her State of the State Address in which she spoke of imposing ‘tougher penalties on the worst of the worst, repeat offenders’. who continue to commit acts of violence when released.

She also said she wants to enact tougher laws to keep violent offenders in jail until they are tried, a move Republican and Democratic lawmakers appear unified on this year.

Currently, defendants who allegedly committed crimes are only eligible for pretrial detention if a prosecutor files a motion to keep them behind bars and can prove they pose a threat to the community. The judge has the last word.

Proposed legislation already in session would require defendants to prove they do not pose a threat if released. But the judge would still make the final decision.

The memo says there is little evidence to prove that current bail reform measures are increasing the rate of violent crime.

Using 2017-2021 data from the Bernalillo County court system, it says 95% of defendants “were not charged with violence on bail.”

However, just over 13% of these defendants committed non-violent crimes upon release.

Keeping these defendants in jail before trial could cost taxpayers about $2 million more a year and lead to extended jail time for defendants who could be found not guilty, according to the memo.

Speaking about the possibility of the bail conditions being changed during this session, New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Vigil said Monday that he would only ask that “all proceedings that have place are based on verified data and not on emotions”.