ALBUQUERQUE — U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Operation Triple Beam — a joint federal, state, local and regional law enforcement initiative that took place over the past 90 days — resulted in the arrest of 327 violent criminals in New Mexico, including 92 people in the Santa Fe and Farmington communities.

Surrounded by at least 30 law enforcement officials from across the state, Barr appeared Tuesday at the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office in Albuquerque to tout Operation Triple Beam as “one of the most important tools in our attack on violent crime.”

He cited an increase in drug production and use, particularly methamphetamine and fentanyl, as the main reason people commit violent crimes in New Mexico.

“Part of the violence we see … is a narcotics problem,” he said.

Of the 327 people arrested, 91 faced narcotics charges, 10 were wanted on homicide charges, 20 had weapons charges, 13 were wanted in connection with sex crimes, and 35 turned out to be “certified gang members,” U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington said.

The operation, led by U.S. marshals, also recovered 31 stolen vehicles and seized more than 50 pounds of methamphetamine and 43 illegal firearms.

“We took a lot of bad guys out of your community,” Washington said.

New Mexico’s crime rate has drawn national attention. According to 2018 FBI statistics, the state’s rate of 857 violent crimes per 100,000 residents is the second highest in the nation. Barr said Albuquerque, where most of Operation Triple Beam was conducted, has a violent crime rate that is 3.7 times the national average.

“Unfortunately the [criminal justice] system in New Mexico is subpar,” Barr said, citing another reason for federal involvement. “It’s not doing its job of keeping dangerous criminals off the street.”

The problem, Barr said, is the state’s judicial system fails to detain suspects before trial and releases them back into the community, where they intimidate witnesses or people who might want to come forward to report crimes.

Sonya Chavez, U.S. marshal for New Mexico, said the 90-day arrest sweep is “indicative of what we do every day,” adding “the momentum will only increase” as law enforcement agencies work together to keep the pressure on fugitives.

She said no law enforcement personnel were hurt in the operation.

Barr’s visit to New Mexico came two weeks after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the creation of a Fugitive Apprehension Unit, which will be responsible for finding people charged with violent crimes who have failed to appear in court.

Authorities say this unit will help reduce the more than 1,600 outstanding bench warrants for people charged with violent crimes.

Lujan Grisham says the unit will be made up of at least seven state police officers and at least seven state Corrections Department staffers.

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General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(10) comments

Jeff Varela

NM ranks at the top in the U.S. in crime and crime prevention. While our Governor ignores and demoralizes the District Attorney's and Corrections Dept. NM will continue to play politics with the entire criminal justice system. The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) is a joke and job security for the commission and judges.

Mark Ortiz

I'm going to post three comments in one. Let's see if people can figure out that things are either / and.

1. Thank you to Law Enforcement for the work you are doing to try and keep citizens safer in this operation and I'm especially glad none of you were hurt.

2. At least for the Santa Fe area, Marco Serna you are an incompetent scallywag who's life proves the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Please seek therapy, as you must be delusional that you know what your are doing in the DA's office AND feel you could do more for the populace as a U.S. Rep.

3. In may skepticism, I'm going to say Barr was paraded out as the face of this operation to put New Mexico, the Governor, and the corrupt, do nothing, entitled Democratic politicians on notice. 45's RNC is coming full steam ahead to turn this State red.

Vote Bernie in 2020. He'll fight for the poor, the under educated, the children, the victimized, and all working class people regardless of political affiliation. Fight for a progressive agenda. Let's stop the onslaught of corporate elites from both parties.

Carolyn DM

Well, thank you for speaking on behalf of our state, Mr. Barrstone. Now it's time you start working for our country rather than working exclusively as Mr. Trumpf's personal attorney. We are after all the people that pay your so far wasted salary.

Spencer Ralston

NM has to change laws so that those arrested for violent crimes aren’t let out on the streets prior to trial. And we need to bring these “suspects” to trial faster. And we need to get rid of Marco Serena. I don’t agree with Barr on much of anything, but I agree that our problem is with our state’s criminal justice system.

Jary Earl

I agree with you 100%. Marco Serna has to go!

Susan Waller

Someone needs to round up Willam Barr.

William Schmitt

...and his boss..

Carolyn DM

ESPECIALLY his boss!!

Charles Andreoli

So you prefer the criminals to law enforcement ?

Sonya Berg

Why is Barr in New Mexico? Doesn't he have more important issues to consider right now. His absence in DC and backing up Trump is very telling.

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