This story is a staff report from The Paper.

Albuquerque Police (APD) assist US Marshals with arrests, "OTB Albuquerque-66" by U.S. Marshals Service is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday was joined by Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, Attorney General Hector Balderas, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez and Albuquerque legislators to announce the governor’s comprehensive public safety package ahead of the 2022 legislative session.

The governor’s priorities include:

  • Imposing a “rebuttable presumption,” which seeks to ensure that those accused of murder, gun crimes, rape or other sex crimes do not pose a danger to the community before being released pending trial, keeping more violent offenders off New Mexico streets.
  • Increasing penalties for second degree murder from 15 years to 18 years and removing the statute of limitations.
  • Increasing penalties for gun crimes, including increasing the penalty for unlawful possession of a handgun from misdemeanor to fourth degree felony; creating a crime of “criminal threat” as a fourth degree felony; adding penalty of third degree felony for fleeing law enforcement that results in injury and second degree felony for fleeing that results in great bodily harm; enhancing penalties for brandishing a firearm in the commission of a drug transaction.

“Living in a safe and healthy community is the right of every New Mexican, and these are smart proposals that get and keep the worst of the worst off of New Mexico streets,” said Lujan Grisham. “I’m looking forward to working with the Legislature to make sure that every one of these bills crosses the finish line.”

“For far too long, New Mexico has ranked below the national average in keeping our children and families safe due to stunningly low and ineffective penalties,” said Balderas.

“For Albuquerque, this legislative session is about getting the reform and investments we need to make a real impact on crime,” said Keller. “This year, money can’t be the excuse, the resources are there. This session, we are together to do the hard work that’s required.”

“The governor deserves credit for making public safety a top priority for the upcoming legislative session and for supporting our proposal to shut the revolving door for violent, repeat offenders,” said Torrez. “Fixing pretrial detention and strengthening the penalties for homicide and gun-related crimes enjoys broad, bipartisan support. We owe it to the citizens of this state to enact common-sense legislation to stem the rising tide of violent crimes in our communities.”

“This legislation asks our court to look seriously at individuals with violent histories before releasing them, sending a message to others that there are consequences for violent acts,” said Rep. Marian Matthews, sponsor of the pre-trial detention legislation.

The governor is also supporting public safety in New Mexico through a recommendation for nearly 20 percent raises for state police officers and the creation of a $100 million fund to be used to recruit, train and hire law enforcement at departments around the state.

In response to the announcement, Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur said, “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. The evidence is that people on pretrial release are not a significant cause of the increase in violent crime, and, in fact, incarcerating more people before trial, or with increased penalties, will further harm our communities.”