Amid rising rates of gun violence and other crime statewide, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday a series of public safety proposals lawmakers will introduce in the upcoming legislative session — a package that includes harsher penalties, bond reform and funds to boost law enforcement.

“Every time that we talk about a violent crime, a homicide, any crime for public safety at all, there is a New Mexican who was the victim,” she said at new conference in Albuquerque, where she was joined by Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, Attorney General Hector Balderas, District Attorney Raúl Torrez and state lawmakers.

“If you’re asking if this is a ‘tough on crime’ press announcement, make no mistake this is a ‘tough on and prevent crime’ press announcement with New Mexico’s leaders particularly in that space,” the governor added.

Her comments came hours after Albuquerque police announced detectives had begun investigations into three separate homicides in a 10-hour span: a fatal shooting at a home, a man found dead in a motel and a body discovered in an alley behind a business.

But, Lujan Grisham said, “This is not just an Albuquerque issue. This is a state issue. This is a neighborhood-by-neighborhood, community-by-community issue. New Mexico can and will do better.”

The governor’s proposed package includes:

  • Imposing a “rebuttable presumption,” which Lujan Grisham said would shift the burden from prosecutors to defendants accused of murder, gun crimes, rape and other sex crimes, forcing them to prove they do not pose a danger to the community before they are released from jail while awaiting their trial.
  • Removing the statute of limitations for second-degree murder and increasing the penalty to 18 years from 15.
  • Increasing penalties for a range of gun crimes.

Lujan Grisham also aims to allocate $100 million to “support and strengthen New Mexico law enforcement agencies” by creating more funds for hiring and retaining officers and civilian staff.

Law enforcement and government officials in the city and county of Santa Fe, which have seen some of their highest rates of violent crime in the last decade, say the governor’s crime package is welcome — but includes just a few ways the issue should be addressed through legislation.

“We’re seeing more of those crimes that involve weapons and guns, and more violent crimes where people are sustaining more serious injuries,” Santa Fe police interim Chief Paul Joye said. “Anything that can be a deterrent for that, that’s a positive for us.

“But it’s one aspect of a larger community and state issue to fix these problems,” he added.

Joye said programs such as the city’s Alternative Response Unit, which responds to calls involving people in need of behavioral health support and social services, also have an immense effect on violent crime.

Deputy Chief Ben Valdez said the governor’s crime package would create assurance that communities in New Mexico “hold people accountable” and have the teeth to do so.

“We are really happy to see lot of the initiatives that she brought forward … and she mentioned Albuquerque is not the only place that’s experiencing this, but that pretty much drives the tempo across the state,” Valdez said.

New Mexico’s violent crime rate increased 30 percent between 2014 and 2020, according to a report from the Legislative Finance Committee, while the violent crime clearance rate, or the rate at which crimes were solved, fell 25 percent during the same period.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said he believes there is a need for tougher penalties and supports the governor’s initiatives “100 percent.”



He also welcomed her proposal for funds to hire more personnel.

“We need law enforcement presence on the streets, and we need people qualified to do the job,” he said.

Lujan Grisham also proposed a 20 percent pay increase for New Mexico State Police, according to her budget recommendations.

Mendoza said while he supports the “long-overdue” increase for state officers, he hopes the remaining funds will allow smaller departments to remain competitive.

Mayor Alan Webber said any action by the state to help staff the city’s department is a benefit.

“As a mayor, anything we can do that gets support for more law enforcement personnel and public safety officers, I think that will make a significant difference for Santa Fe,” he said.

When it comes to harsher penalties for crimes, Webber said he supports any effort to reduce gun violence, but he added legislation is only one avenue.

“If we can take any measures that reduce access to and the use of firearms by the hands of someone who’s going to commit a crime, I think that’s a good thing,” he said.

Defense attorneys, public defenders and other critics have raised concerns the governor’s bond reform proposal would give prosecutors more power to detain people.

Bennett Baur, the state’s chief public defender, said in a statement that evidence shows people on pretrial release are not a significant cause of the increase in violent crime and incarcerating more people before trial will further harm New Mexico communities.

“I’m concerned that the focus is all on police, prosecutors and punishment, and seems to ignore the effects that the proposals would have on the courts, public defenders, jails and prisons and on what happens when anyone accused of a crime is eventually released,” he said.

Rep. Tara Lujan, D-Santa Fe, said she supports the governor’s crime package, but she also hopes the governor and Legislature ensure a comprehensive approach to violence in the upcoming session.

“We need to really confront this in a holistic way — what’s going on and what we call crime — and really come at this place of reform and really looking at the behavioral health and addiction issues that we have right now,” Lujan said.

“They’re looking for harsher penalties. They’re coming down harder on a lot of these things,” she added. “I can understand that if they’re gonna substantiate those bills with others addressing these other baseline issues.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(20) comments

Khal Spencer

The "Rebuttable Presumption" rule would most likely violate the State Constitution. The article below states clearly that the onus is on the prosecutor to show by clear and convincing evidence, an intermediate standard between "preponderance of evidence" and "beyond a reasonable doubt" that bail should be denied. I think we would have to amend the state constitution:

Art. II, § 13: Bail, Excessive Fines, Cruel and Unusual Punishment

All persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties,

except for capital offenses when the proof is evident or the presumption

great and in situations in which bail is specifically prohibited by this

section. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines

imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.

Bail may be denied by a court of record pending trial for a defendant

charged with a felony if the prosecuting authority requests a hearing

and proves by clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions

will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the

community. An appeal from an order denying bail shall be given

preference over all other matters.

A person who is not a danger detainable on grounds of dangerousness

nor a flight risk in the absence of bond and is otherwise eligible for bail

shall not be detained solely because of financial inability to post a

money or property bond. A defendant who is neither a danger nor a

flight risk and who has a financial inability to post a money or property

bond may file a motion with the court requesting relief from the

requirement to post bond. The court shall rule on the motion in an

expedited manner

Khal Spencer

HJR 4 would actually amend the Constitution to change the requirement that the State have the burden of proof.

Chris Mechels

Perhaps worth a quick line is that the Governor IS a criminal, as she breaks our laws (IPRA, OMA, Rules Act) constantly. Lets start our Criminal Reform with HER... and perhaps Egolf. Criminality at the top poisons the whole system.

Angel Ortiz

[spam]

Peter Romero

A political twostep. We used to be against it, but because an election is coming, we are for it. What a joke.

Matthew Rawlings

NM needs to grow it's economy so people have work to go to instead resorting to crime. These defund the police politicians (Keller, Lujan Grisham, etc...) now saying they are going to get tough on crime sounds like a joke to me. Sorry.

Khal Spencer

Growing the economy is a two way street. Hard to hold down a job when you flunk the dope-o-meter test, for example. Or when you can't read or write. I think we need to rebuild this state from the ground up to make it competitive.

Khal Spencer

Mr. Briscoe, criminals have a habit of ignoring laws, so you can pass any law you want and chances are, those willing to commit a violent felony will ignore it, too.

That said, there is a safe storage bill lurking (was written up in the Albuquerque Journal a month or so ago) but has not been prefiled as of a half hour ago. My hunch is the bill authors are keeping it under wraps rather than having the firearms community dissect it and be ready with criticisms. If it is anything like the bill that was heard in New Jersey a few months ago and not passed, it would be subject to serious pushback and probably ignored by anyone who is keeping a firearm in the home for self defense. That is because it required guns and ammo be locked up separately and thus not easily accessed in an emergency. There was a piece put out a few weeks ago dealing with time to crime of crime guns that suggested recently purchased guns were finding their way into "wrong hands" and of course instances of little Johnny taking Dad's handgun out of the sock drawer and causing chaos. Safe storage is a good idea, but has to be written carefully. For one thing, the NM Constitution elucidates our right to have a firearm for self defense, so any bill that significantly impeded that right by making self defense impractical could be challenged under the state constitution, or for that matter, Heller.

Mark Specter makes a very good point. Much of our problem is that the criminal justice system falls apart between the time of arrest and when someone should be brought to trial, due to lack of staffing, slow responses violating the right to a speedy trial, evidence handling, etc. And, of course, letting people out of jail early who are sure to go back to crime. We need to fix that or as Mark says, it will just be more "catch and release".

John Briscoe

I find it absolutely incredible that reducing the availability of guns is missing from the proposals and comments.

Mike Johnson

I find that logical, rational, and appropriate.

Emily Koyama

John, it probably has something to do with that pesky Second Amendment.

Now, if there were measures that could be taken to reduce availability and illegal use of guns (such as stiffer penalties for those that choose to use guns in the commission of a crime) by criminals, without burdening lawful firearms owners, I think that's a discussion worth having.

Khal Spencer

Some bills to that effect have been prefiled, Emily.

https://www.nmlegis.gov/Legislation/Legislation_List

Mike Johnson

I like the sounds of most of her proposals and focus. The key thing is putting and keeping more criminals in jail, and no where did she mention, as some left wing types have in the past, of "reducing" the number of people in jail.

Chris Mechels

Mike, what's missing is reform of the Justice system. Our DA, one of the worst in the state, uses methods like charge stacking and over charging to compel Plea Bargains from many who are not guilty. Pleading guilty doesn't mean you ARE guilty, as many pleas are coerced. Bear that in mind when "lock em up" is the chant. Our "Justice" system in New Mexico is an "Injustice" system. Our Supremes don't want to address this problem, which is profound.

Mike Johnson

True Chris, that reform should be part of the agenda, but since so many incompetent DAs are elected, what can be done to remove them except voting? And the partisan and incompetent Supreme Court is also beyond the reach of legislation, we need some impeachments and a new person appointing them.

Chris Mechels

Mike, your questions are excellent. Some obvious "solutions" are things we have dismantled in the past. We need to empower the Grand Jury, and free them from the DA, as they once were. Once powerful, the Grand Jury was shackled in 1993. The Grand Jury once could indict State Officials, or the DA, for Malfeasance, and prosecute their corruption. Currently, since the 1990s, the DAs and AG won't prosecute Malfeasance, so our government is riddled with it. We also need to enforce the performance bonds, which appointed officials must post. Prosecution malfeasance and collecting the bonds would lead to performance. We need an Attorney General who will prosecute our laws, instead of using the office for his political ends, as Balderas does, and Colon hopes to do. All of these things once worked fairly well, but were demolished in the 1990s by the Democrats, who have seized our government. A first step to solve this corruption is to realize it and see the roots. It has gotten very much worse since the 1990s, for reasons which are quite clear. We are at present no longer under a "Rule of Law" as the Trifecta does as they wish, and dares us to sue them, as they have the Attorney General and a horde of attorneys to defend their illegal actions. Its bad, and getting worse under Michelle and AG Baldeas. We rank last in the nation for governance, and getting worse. The current proposed bill is mindless, just stupid PR, a typical MLG maneuver.

Emily Koyama

Higher pay for all officers (not just State Police) will help recruiters pick from a larger pool of better educated, better qualified candidates.

It will also reduce the temptation to hire problematic officers who are leaving other agencies for questionable reasons.

More funding is also needed for better training, especially in de-escalation techniques, as well as more less-lethal tools.

Mental health and drug addiction treatment also needs a big boost.

All of these initiatives are recurring expenses, so a one time chunk of money is only a starting point.

Khal Spencer

[thumbup]

Mark Specter

But nothing for training? Half the problem is that violent offenders get off because of slow responses and poor evidence collection/processing. You might catch more folks with this plan, but you're not going to keep them locked up any longer.

Chris Mechels

Mark, they never address the training problems. The last "legal" curriculum for NM police training was in 2013. The Attorney General knows this, and does nothing, though he Chairs the Law Enforcement Academy. Our media won't report on this, and our SFPD and SF Sheriff, who have the worst training in the state, don't want to talk about it. We need to elect a Reform Attorney General, and replace the SF Sheriff, for starters. And we need a newspaper which will report on such things. The New Mexican stopped reporting on police training when Ray Rivera left. Since then, they're boot lickers.

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