Crime, crime, everyone’s talking crime. What to do about the crime is one of the conundrums that the 55th New Mexico State Legislature will try to tackle during its short 30-day session. Politicians tackling crime is nothing new as crime is always a hot button for voters.
What’s the Problem?
Just here in Albuquerque, there were about 117 homicide victims in 2021 with another 11 killings in the Bernalillo County area surrounding the state’s largest city. Compare that to 84 homicides in 2019 and 76 in 2020. As of Jan. 13, five more have been added to the city’s tab, making it look like 2022 could be another banner year. These numbers do not include officer-involved shootings. Along with people killing each other, there are all the other crimes that keep people on edge like property crimes, auto theft and break-ins, rapes, assaults, burglary, robberies, fraud and others. While some of these categories have shown a decrease, most have not.
What Ya Going to Do About It?
There is a fair amount of prefiled bills intended to take a bite out of crime, as they say. Among those already in the sausage grinder and with the urging of crime victims advocacy groups such as Robbed New Mexico, several bills have been prefiled. These include bail reform to hold violent offenders behind bars until trial, harsher penalties for second-degree murder and a three-strikes bill that would remove the possibility of parole for violent offenders convicted of three violent crimes. Also in the hopper is a bill asking for an additional $5 million to maintain and expand services for sexual assault victims.
State Rep. Bill Rehm, a Republican and former police officer representing the far Northeast Heights, is taking the lead at this point and has prefiled a number of crime bills including penalties for unlawful use of firearms while trafficking, a five-year sentence for felons in possession of a firearm, new penalties for organized retail crime, increased DWI sentencing guidelines and a bill for cannabis testing for drivers suspected of driving under the influence.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her $8.46 billion spending plan with public safety efforts being one of her top priorities. The Gov’s initiatives to address crime across the state include that people charged with certain violent crimes be held in jail until trial, increasing penalties for gun crimes and increasing penalties and removing the statute of limitations on second-degree murders. The Legislative Finance Committee is asking for a five-percent increase for the state’s courts along with additional funding for the state’s Department of Public Safety.
There will be more bills addressing crime, public safety and other law enforcement issues filed as politicians do the things they do to respond to their constituents. But which bills will make it through the committee calls and the often lengthy floor debate to get greenlighted and funded is yet to be seen. Keep up with all the crime and other bills being filed at nmlegis.gov. Look for the bill finder and plug in a keyword, sponsor or bill number to see what is happening to that particular bill.