Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

On Friday Mayor Keller signed an executive order that established a Gun Violence Prevention and Intervention Task Force. The establishment of the task force comes after months of meetings and recommendations from the Metro Crime Initiative. The task force will be made up of elected officials, agency staff and behavioral health leaders. It is meant to close gaps in the criminal justice system and improve the region’s ability to prevent and fight crime. 

Albuquerque is experiencing its deadliest year on record for homicides. As of October 18, there have been 86 homicide cases, and 90 homicide victims. In 2021 some 77 percent of homicides have been a result of gun violence. According to the most recent report released by the city, since January of 2021, there has been an average of 25 shootings per month that have resulted in injury.

“Turning the tide on gun violence will take immediate action, like strengthening laws for gun storage and gun crimes. It also takes a serious focus on root causes that keep people trapped in cycles of trauma and violence,” Keller said. “This task force is one of the priorities that emerged from the Metro Crime Initiative this summer, as it becomes more clear that gun violence is a public health crisis. As parents we understand how pressing this challenge is; no family should have to feel that fear when we drop our kids off at school.”

One of the duties of the task force is to provide recommendations on how to enhance addressing gun violence in the city. According to the city, recommendations included improving cooperation between the city’s departments, improving understanding of the different cultures within the city and improving outreach services to communities in the city. The task force included representatives from Bernalillo Country, CYFD, community organizers and those directly impacted by gun violence.

“We’ve done an incredible amount of work to reimagine our public safety system so that it works for everyone,” Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair said.

The city and law enforcement hope that this new task force will improve and further efforts to reduce gun violence. “Gun violence is the main factor driving up crime in our city,” Albuquerque Police Department Chief Harold Medina said. “This task force is going to help us better understand the underlying causes so that law enforcement can stop acting as a Band-Aid, and we can really address the challenges people are facing.”

“Gun violence is a public health crisis. It is devastating our communities, and it’s a multifaceted problem that demands a multi-pronged approach,” co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence Miranda Viscoli said. “This is an important step to bring people together to get creative in our solution building.”

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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.