In the wake of the killing of 13 year old, eighth grader Bennie Hargrove being shot and killed at Washington Middle school by another student as well as the city breaking the all-time homicide rate with 81 murders, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is sending 35 New Mexico State Police Officers to the city. She also announced that she is open to adding firearms legislation to the 2022 thirty day legislative session that begins in January.
NEW MEXICO STATE POLICE GOES TO TIM KELLER’S RESCUE
On Monday, August 16, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that she had order 35 New Mexico State Police ( NMSP) officers to begin “proactive operations” and crime suppression operations in the Albuquerque area starting on Tuesday, August 17. The 35 NMSP officers will be assigned to a 3-week-long operation in Albuquerque. State Police Officers will conduct operations along I-25 and I-40 in Bernalillo County. They will also be on highways during peak traffic hours. Currently, 42 state police officers are stationed in the metro area, but they patrol the area from Bernalillo to Los Lunas and Grants to Edgewood. The additional 35 State Police will concentrate on Albuquerque.
According to a news release, NMSP will be working with the New Mexico Department of Corrections and Adult Probation and Parole Department. The state department will work together to target criminals who have outstanding warrants for violent crimes and are believed to be involved in ongoing criminal activity in the city.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham had this to say:
“We know from our last effort there were a lot of arrests made. We think this is going to make an impact and we’re going to continue to go after fugitives right and we’ve got felony warrants, people out. It takes all of us working together to get these people picked up and held.”
Tim Johnson, Chief of the New Mexico State Police, had this to say in a news release:
“Proactive crime suppression efforts can help solve crimes and often help prevent crime in the Albuquerque Metro area. … “Citizens have described the driving on the interstates in Albuquerque as chaotic, often leaving them feeling unsafe or frightened. Shootings, murder and overall violent crime feels like a daily occurrence in the metro, we hope our plan can help slow this trend.”
The assignment of State Police will be the second time in as many years that the Governor has ordered state police to the city, but this second time is dramatically different. It was in May, 2019 following the shooting of the University of New Mexico baseball player Jackson Weller outside of a Nob Hill bar that 50 state police officers were pulled from communities all over the state and patrolled the metro for two months. The state police arrested 738 people and doing more than 14,000 traffic stops. The 35 state police being sent this time will be tasked with concentrating on outstanding warrants for violent crimes.
KELLER CLAIMS CREDIT
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said it was he who asked the Governor for help with the violent crime in the city. Keller claimed this go around is different than the first time when state police were sent in 2019 and said that this is not a “Metro Surge” but a “collaboration”. Keller stated:
“The reason why it’s so different is because this is focused on helping Albuquerque with what it needs. … And that specifically is help with homicides and investigations. …We gotta not point fingers. This is every agency’s fault. This is every elected official’s fault. We’re taking responsibility and we’re asking others to join us in a collective ask for what we’re actually going to do about it.”
35 STATE POLICE TO CITY AFTER KELLER AND MEDINA BOTH ADMIT FAILURE
APD is currently investigating 83 homicides, which breaks the all time record for one year, and with well over 4 months left in the year. It was on August 3, 2021, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference and essentially acknowledge that he and his handpicked APD Chief Medina are totally unable to stop the carnage in Albuquerque.
APD Chief Harold Medina had this to say:
“We knew we were going to break the record. … It’s something not only the city of Albuquerque is facing, it’s a national trend. … Back in January, we talked about hotels. We talked about the increase of homicides at hotels. The past few weeks we’ve talked about hotels, midnight to 5 in the morning and narcotics activities, and what’s going on behind us has all three of those elements. … The bottom line is, yes there is a lot of crime, without a doubt … there’s a lot of things going on during this midst of this pandemic that is leading to this rash in homicides.
We’re stretched thin with resources in a lot of ways and I’m not shy in saying that. I may make a decision to give homicide additional resources, but that may mean that some of the requirements of our court settlement agreement, where they want me to give more people to the academy or internal affairs, may have to be on hold as we try and get resources to fight crime in the city.”
Mayor Tim Keller for his part admitted the city will see a record number of murders this year and he too said it was a national trend and said:
“We obviously had two homicides this morning and our team is working on them. … The majority of homicides in Albuquerque are very specific. … They’re tied to drugs, they’re tied to guns and they’re tied to motels and they happen from midnight to five am and they usually involve males between 25 to 35. … We know El Paso’s homicide rate is up 150%. Fresno is up 300%. Oakland is up 200%. Portland is over 1,000%. … We do expect these trends to continue and I do expect Albuquerque to break 100 [homicides] this fall.”
Keller added that there’s not one single answer to make all violent crime disappear and his administration is working with local and state agencies to find ways to cut it down.
2022 NEW MEXICO LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
During her announcement of sending 35 State Police to Albuquerque, Governor Lujan Grisham took the opportunity to make a pitch to the legislature asking for funding to get the NMSP force up to 1,000. According to the Governor, if that happens, more operations such as what has been ordered in Albuquerque can happen all over the state.
On Monday, August 16 it was reported that New Mexico lawmakers will ask Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to add crime and firearms legislation to the 2022 legislative agenda. Proposals for the session comes as legislators are preparing for two legislative sessions: a special redistricting session later this year and a 30-day regular session starting January 18, 2022.
The 2022 Legislative session is what is referred to as a short session, meaning it will last 30 days, and the Governor is empowered to set the agenda for such sessions. The agendas for 30 day sessions are limited to budget and tax legislation, proposed constitutional amendments and previously vetoed bills.
A few of the ideas being suggested for the 30 day session include imposing tougher criminal penalties, authorizing extra money to hire more sworn police and requiring gun owners to lock up their firearms. Governor’s Spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said Lujan Grisham is “open-minded” to such legislation and said:
“Crime and criminal justice are absolutely among the topics that the governor is interested in pursuing early next year. … She plans on discussing with legislative leadership, as well as some that she has raised already, … and we’re optimistic that some of those will gain consensus as we move towards the session.”
House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, for his part said he and Lujan Grisham have been discussing legislation for the upcoming session and Speaker Egolf said in a written statement:
“… The governor and I are in close conversation about getting effective crime-fighting legislation on the call next session, including a serious investment in funding 1,000 new law enforcement officers over 10 years who would also be trained in community-oriented policing. … Too many New Mexicans are worried about their safety and their property in their own neighborhoods. ”
PAST FAILED LEGISLATION BEING PROPOSED
One proposal that is being suggested again is to make it a crime to fail to secure a firearm. Gun owners would have to keep their firearms in a locked container or otherwise make them inaccessible to anyone but the owner or other authorized users. The renewal of the proposal is directly related to the killing 13 year old, eighth grader Bennie Hargrove being shot and killed at Washington Middle school by another student. The gun used to kill the child is said to belong to the shooters father. During the 2020 legislative session, the legislation died in committee and was never given any kind of a hearing.
Republican State Representative Bill Rehm said he reached out to the Governor to review legislation he has sponsored in the past and that has failed. Rehm has proposed in the past lifting the six-year statute of limitations on second-degree murder charges, expanding New Mexico’s three-strikes law, revising the bail system and making it a felony to take a gun to a drug transaction.
Democratic lawmakers usually block proposals to enhance criminal sentences, but tougher penalties have sometimes won approval as part of broader anti-crime packages.
For a full report, link to quoted source material is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Exactly 4 years ago, in August, 2017, then New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller, candidate for Albuquerque Mayor, had this to say about the city’s high crime rates:
“It’s unfortunate, but crime is absolutely out of control. It’s the mayor’s job to actually address crime in Albuquerque, and that’s what I want to do as the next mayor.”
KELLER DEFLECTS HIS FAILURE TO DEAL WITH VIOLENT CRIME TO OTHERS
Fast forward to August 16, 2021. When Mayor Tim Keller says “We gotta not point fingers. This is every agency’s fault. This is every elected official’s fault. … “ he is clearly trying to deflect the fact that he has been a failure at reducing the city’s high violent crime rates as he promised when he ran in 2017. Keller has recently begun to blame the Covid Pandemic as contributing to the increases in violent crimes and saying it’s a “national tend”.
NATIONAL VIOLENT CRIME TREND IN CITY BEFORE COVID
During his first full 3 years in office, Mayor Keller initiated numerous crime-fighting initiatives. All were initiated before the pandemic hit the city hard in February of last year. March 11, 2020 is when the Corona Virus was declared a worldwide pandemic and the country began to shut down and people began to quarantine and businesses began to close.
The blunt truth is that for a good 3 years BEFORE the COVID pandemic hit the city hard in 2020 under Keller’s watch, crime rates were spiking, so much so that then candidate for Mayor Tim Keller made reducing the city’s crime rates a cornerstone to his campaign. He proclaimed himself to be uniquely qualified to be Mayor and went so far as to promise that he would hire 300 sworn police officers and grow the department to 1,200 sworn police offices by the end of his first term. Today, the department has 960 sworn police and the police academy cannot keep up with retirements.
Its laughable that Keller would say “We gotta not point fingers. This is every agency’s fault. … “ when pointing fingers and not assuming responsibility is all Keller has ever done since being elected Mayor. He is known for pointing fingers at those he himself has appointed in law enforcement such as former APD Chief Michael Geier for failing to implement the DOJ reforms and not preventing the police overtime scandal. Now Keller is saying it is “every agencies fault” then he does not understand the real function of law enforcement is to enforce the law, investigate and prosecute crimes.
The Albuquerque Police Department is fully funded for 1,100 sworn police, but the number of APD police officers patrolling the street of Albuquerque is dangerously low. As of July 24, 2021, APD has 940 sworn police according to city personnel records, but only 369 are actually patrolling the streets of the city. According to an August 2 KOAT TV news report, APD patrol staffing is as follows:
369 patrol officers, for six area commands and 3 shifts
59 patrol sergeants
18 – 22 bike officers
The 369 patrol officers are divided into 6 area commands and 3 separate shifts. It is clearly an APD management failing to assign sufficient personnel where it is needed.
Keller and company are simply not getting the job done. One solution Keller could do is order all APD sergeants, lieutenants and captains back into their patrol cars to assist patrolling the streets of Albuquerque for the 3 week period to handle fugitive complaints and outstanding arrest warrants, but instead Keller runs to the Governor for help.
CALL SPECIAL SESSION ON CRIME AND GUN CONTROL
A thirty-day legislative sessions, also known as a short session, are supposed to be limited to budget and tax legislation, proposed constitutional amendments and previously vetoed bills. It would be a major mistake for the New Mexico Legislature to even attempt to tackle enactment of crime legislation, even though it is desperately needed at this time.
What the Governor should consider is a Special Legislative Session to immediately follow the 30 days session to deal exclusively with crime and responsible gun control legislation.
A special legislature should consider the following:
1.Enact legislation making it a crime to fail to secure a firearm. Gun owners would have to keep their firearms in a locked container or otherwise make them inaccessible to anyone but the owner or other authorized users.
2.Review additional bail bond reforms and statutorily empower judges with more authority and more discretion to hold and jail those pending trial who have prior violent crime convictions.
3. Enact legislation that either bans “citizen militias” entirely or regulate all citizens militias.
Citizen militias need to be define along similar lines of how “gangs” are defined under federal criminal law or state law.
The link to a related blog article is here:
4. Prohibit in New Mexico the sale of “ghost guns” parts. Ghost guns are guns that are manufactured and sold in parts without any serial numbers to be assembled by the purchaser and that can be sold to anyone.
5. Requiring in New Mexico the mandatory purchase of “liability insurance” with each gun sold as is required for all operable vehicles bought and driven in New Mexico.
6. Enact a gun violence restraining order and extreme risk protection process to temporarily prohibit an individual deemed by a judge to pose a danger to self or others, from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition and allow law local law enforcement to remove any firearms or ammunition already in the individual’s possession.
7. Restrict and penalize firearm possession by or transfer to a person subject to a domestic violence protection order or a person, including dating partners, convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.
8. Mandate and fund public school systems and higher education institutions to “harden” their facilities with more security doors, security windows, security measures, including metal detectors at single entrances designated and alarm systems and security cameras tied directly to law enforcement 911 emergency operations centers.
9. Repeal the New Mexico Constitutional provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms. This would require a public vote and no doubt generate heated discussion given New Mexico’s high percentage of gun ownership for hunting, sport or hobby.
Without reasonable and responsible gun control legislation, and aggressive law enforcement and prosecution of violent criminals, New Mexico and Albuquerque will continue have spiking violent crime and such rates will be the new normal.