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Mayor Convenes Third Session of Metro Crime Initiative as Cities Grapple with Rising Homicides and Gun Violence

Criminal justice leaders and community stakeholders develop recommendations to tackle pattern of criminal re-offenses commonly known as “revolving door.”

Aug. 13, 2021

The City of Albuquerque convened the Metro Crime Initiative for the third of five planned sessions today, bringing together court and elected officials, agency staff, education experts and addiction treatment leaders to continue developing targeted recommendations for strengthening the criminal justice system. During this session, participants examined processes including Grand Juries, preliminary hearings, and opportunities for diversion and non-detention to tackle the pattern of criminal re-offenses, commonly known as the “revolving door.”

This session is especially significant as Albuquerque and cities across the nation grapple with rising homicides and gun violence, including today’s school shooting at Washington Middle School and last night’s shooting at Ojos Locos Sports Cantina.

“Today’s events are yet another reminder about how important and urgent this work is. We’re bringing partners together from across the system to stop the drivers of crime who are recommitting offenses time and again,” said Mayor Tim Keller.

For Albuquerque homicides this year, approximately 70% of victims, over 45% of charged offenders, and over 58% of suspects have a criminal record. “For low-level offenders, we need to bolster diversion programs and real access to resources to change their lives. But for violent offenders, we have to stop the revolving door to keep Albuquerque families safe and demonstrated effective criminal justice in our community.”

Throughout the Metro Crime Initiative, participants are examining a hypothetical case study of a young adult named Kelly as they move through the criminal justice system, allowing participants to reference a realistic and common set of facts as they apply solutions. In today’s session, the case study covered the development of narcotics addiction leading to dropping out of school, and the loss of employment leading to a home and auto theft and arrest. 

“We see treatment and detox for young adults particularly lacking. We need to focus on this age group, which makes up a large portion of our clients, to offer them real diversion opportunities so they can avoid felony convictions that can follow them for life,” said Jennifer Barela, Bernalillo County Public Defender’s Office. “Funding for case workers and peer case workers to connect our clients to pre-trial resources is crucial to prevent people from moving further into the criminal justice system.”

“Pre-prosecution diversion was significantly expanded thanks to a legislative change in 2019, and we hope to further expand it. We’re increasing the number of pre-prosecution diversion offers that we make, especially for non-violent offenders. Now, we need to work with partners in the system to increase the acceptance rate of those offers by incentivizing them,” said James Grayson, Chief Deputy District Attorney. “By doing this, non-violent offenders can exit the criminal justice system and get connected to the resources they need so that they can hopefully re-enter the community in a positive way. In focusing on these diversion opportunities, we can reduce recidivism and build safer communities.”

“In looking at this case study, we see gaps in our legal system’s ability to prosecute thefts and ‘chop shops,’ which can be lucrative and effective at drawing people into criminal activity,” said Roberta Baca, Criminal Division Director, Office of the Superintendent of Insurance. “We need to use the tools available to us to complete a legislative fix that will allows us to properly prosecute property crime, closing loopholes and making it less attractive for people to engage in these activities.”

“We know that substance abuse is a major driver of crime in our region, and yet today we don’t have adequate capacity to do intake, detox, and treatment,” said Jennifer Weiss-Burke, Executive Director, Serenity Mesa. “Current programs are unable to meet the intake need alone, we need a triage center where individuals can detox and connect to the substance abuse, recovery, and diversion resources they need. I was glad to find support for this priority today so that we can do more to fund services and provide safe spaces for people to detox safely.”

Today’s panel discussion can be viewed online here. Panelists included:

Judge Cindy Leos, District Court
Roberta Baca, Criminal Division Director Office of the Superintendent of Insurance
James Grayson, Chief Deputy District Attorney
Linda Son-Stone, First Nations

Danette Townsend, ABC Community School Partnership
Jennifer Weiss-Burke, Serenity Mesa Recovery Center Executive Director

John Gilmore, Serenity Mesa Recovery Center Intake Coordinator

Tanya Covington, CABQ Rapid Accountability Diversion (RAD) Program Manager

Deputy Chief Josh Brown, APD
Members of the New Mexico Legislature
Members of the Albuquerque City Council

The fourth session of the Metro Crime Initiative, Resources for Victim Advocates and Offender Re-entry, will be held on Friday, August 27 at 3 p.m. All sessions are streamed live on One Albuquerque Media, GOV-TV 16 YouTube.