Tierna Unruh-Enos is the managing editor and associate publisher at The Paper.

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With an especially violent summer coming to a close and Albuquerque Police releasing the mid-year crime report showing violent crime skyrocketing across the city, APD Chief Harold Medina has taken on the offensive rather than the defensive stance. The Paper. sat down with the chief to talk about violent crime in the city, how APD is addressing it and how the department would like to see more help from the New Mexico State Police.

The Paper: Obviously, we knew some of what the report would reveal: Violent crime and homicide in the city are up. What are you doing to address this?

Chief Medina: Several things need to occur, but three key things need to happen. We need a systematic change. One: Our criminal justice system is a mess. Right now, the courts have been shut down for 16 to 17 months. Two: Our pre-trial detention system isn’t working. The District Attorney needs additional grand jury time to move cases through the system. Three: Judges need to give out fair sentencing rather than stick to a matrix that allows violent offenders back out on the streets.

We have our own internal systems to address within the department, and we are, but we cannot keep arresting the same people who are slipping through the system and are violent offenders. We have to stop being afraid of saying some people need to stay in jail.

How do you feel the system needs to change to address this?

The criminal justice system needs more funding. It needs the support of the Legislature. The people in Albuquerque are fed up with crime. Our elected leaders need to work how the people who elected them want. This is no longer about parties, and everyone knows we can’t fix every person who commits a crime. We need the Legislature to listen to the people they represent and stop playing political games. 

We need more funding for mental health support for people who need it in the system; we need more funding for training and support for keeping violent offenders behind bars. This is not just a police problem. We can’t just keep arresting people and allocating resources for low-level crimes while people who commit a crime with a gun are allowed to go free.

Fixing our systems needs to happen if we want to address violent crime. We all need to work together and make the necessary changes.

You had some good news in the report: Auto theft is down by quite a lot. What do you attribute that to?

Property crime is not as complicated as violent crimes. My background and expertise are in property crimes. So in 2018, I knew what needed to be done to address this. We were in the number one spot in the country, and as a department, we made it a priority to address this. I always knew auto theft offenders were tied to other crimes like robbery or drugs. I started planning auto theft operations with air support. We started seeing results right away, and then the pandemic happened, and other cities reported huge spikes in auto thefts while our numbers continued to go down. We have to keep aggressively tackling auto theft because it is tied into so many other crimes.

How has State Police helped APD?

They have allowed us to focus on homicides while they are focused on traffic violations. Those are the two biggest issues we’ve been facing, and they have allowed us to free up some resources to focus on homicides.

Would you like to see a more permanent presence in the city from the State Police?

I put my ego aside and would definitely welcome more permanent support from NMSP. Their added resources are always welcome to us. 

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Tierna Unruh-Enos is the managing editor and associate publisher at The Paper.

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