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Gun Crime and Officer Retention in Spotlight as Metro Crime Initiative Gears up for 2023

First round of crime fighting bills and new support for needed court programs announced

Nov. 16, 2022

ALBUQUERQUE – Just a year and a half after its creation, partners in the Albuquerque Metro Crime Initiative (MCI) prepare for another legislative session with a first round of bills for 2023. The legislation targets gun violence, the narcotics trade, and cracks down on retail crime, and improves officer retention and recruitment across the state at a critical time for local police department staffing.

Launched in 2021, The Metro Crime Initiative brought nearly every entity in the criminal justice system to the table to acknowledge that the system today is broken, with gaps that have put our communities in danger. It called on every level of the system to accept responsibility for what was in their authority to repair and how they could step up to support priorities across agencies.    

Throughout 2022, participants have worked between agencies and through the legislature to begin to close these gaps, strengthen the state’s response to violent and property crime, invest in proven violence prevention programs, and add capacity to an over-burdened court system.

“Because of our work through MCI, we have tougher laws for criminals that threaten lives in our city. We have tools to crack down on auto theft that just last week led to the largest ‘chop shop’ bust in recent history,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “So we know the MCI approach can produce the results that have escaped New Mexico for too long, but we also know how far we have to go to confront violence and addiction and get local law enforcement departments the support that they need. Fighting crime continues to be our top priority and it’s time to take this momentum forward.” 

The first round of bills discussed this morning include

  • Stronger penalties for gun crimes
    • Targeting the narcotics trade, a bill to enable prosecutors to charge any firearm involved in a drug distribution crime separately from the seized drug.
    • Protecting the public from gun violence, a bill that creates the penalty for randomly discharging a firearm in a populated area as a fourth-degree felony. 
  • Concrete support for local officer recruitment and retention
    • Improved cost-sharing of health insurance through State funds for officers who have served for 25 years.
    • Allowing officers with at least five years of experience in another state to buy into PERA if they transfer to work in New Mexico law enforcement.
  • Tools to crack down on retail crime
    • Building on collaborative efforts between the Attorney General, APD, Rep. Marian Matthews, and business owners to crack down on organized retail theft, a bill to give prosecutors new tools to charge offenders. It applies the robbery statue and racketeering act to more of these offenses as well as aggregates the value of merchandise stolen across stores to create penalties that reflect the damage done. 
  • Increased funding for narcotics education and criminal investigations
    • Fixing the state’s asset forfeiture law so that confiscated funds can be used locally for public education on narcotics and for other approved uses such as bolstering effective digital investigative technology.
  • Support for gun violence prevention and firearm safety
    • “Bennie Hargrove Gun Safety Act,” named for Washington Middle School student, Bennie Hargrove, who was killed last year by a classmate who had taken an unsecured firearm, the bill would create penalties for failing to secure firearms.
    • Fixes to Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order (ERFPO) law making the state law intended to prevent firearm deaths more practically enforceable.

Legislative sponsors for these bills include Representatives Joy Garratt, Marian Matthews, Pamelya Herndon, Meredith Dixon, and Senators Martin Hickey.

APD also announced that other standing MCI action items have been checked off. Albuquerque will provide $775,000 in additional funding to support needed programs in the Metro Court, District Court, and District Attorney’s office.

  • $700,000 to support the District Courts Assisted Outpatient Treatment.
  • $25,000 to support District Attorney’s pre-prosecution diversion program.
  • $50,000 to hire a case manager for the Metro Court’s Behavioral Health Unit.

This funding will improve the system’s ability to process cases and provide the intended supports for eligible individuals to prevent criminal recidivism.

“Taking guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals is simply what we have to do in New Mexico. We are pursuing common sense changes this session to do that and to increase the funding available for both addiction prevention,” said State Senator Martin Hickey.“It’s a privilege to work with the City and MCI partners to advance these urgent pieces of legislation.”

“Criminals and gangs coming are entering into stores, often armed with guns, terrifying customers and employees while they steal as much as they can. Using robbery and racketeering charges, the Organized Retail Crime Bill builds off our existing work to give law enforcement substantially more tools to deter and prosecute these criminals,” said State Representative Marian Matthews. “This is a source of tremendous profit for gangs and it has to stop.”

“As we prepare for the legislative session, our number one priority must be the safety of our children. The CDC reports that firearms are the third leading cause of death among children. With the help of Albuquerque and communities around the state, I want to make sure we move to change that statistic in this year through safe storage laws and other urgent common-sense measures,” said State Representative Pamelya Herndon.

“Albuquerque’s children are our future, and we must protect our future,” said Collette Wise, mother of the late Bennie Hargrove. “Since my son’s murder I, along with Representative Herndon, Mayor Keller, and APD have been pushing for the Bennie Hargrove Gun Safety Act so that those who illegally provide firearms to criminals are held accountable.”