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#abq4ward: What is Gov. Susana Martinez doing about the crime problem?

Chris Ramirez
August 23, 2017 09:02 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- When Susana Martinez promised bold change during her gubernatorial campaigns, she couldn't have realized how hard it would be to keep that promise.

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As she approaches the last year sitting at the top of New Mexico's government, the governor finds her state far more dangerous today than when she entered office.

KOB's Chris Ramirez sat down with the governor to discuss Albuquerque's crime problem.

Ramirez: "Have you found that we lose prospects? We lose potential business because people are so turned off by Albuquerque's crime."

Martinez: "I have no doubt that that is part of their thinking. You have to contemplate: 'to New Mexico, take my business there and want to grow it, What is the safety of my family? My employees?'"

Soon after the KOB team took a stand against crime with the #abq4ward series, the governor started to use her own social media to blast crime. Earlier this month, she held a press conference announcing a new network to crack down on repeat offenders. The team of federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as prosecutors, meets weekly to crack down on the worst of the worst.

Martinez: "They are coming down strong on finding these individuals and putting them in jail where they belong."

For seven years now, the governor has pursued a legislative agenda with many tough-on-crime bills. Some of her ideas have been accepted and become law, but the large majority has not. Her public safety agenda largely has gone nowhere.

Ramirez: "How do you change the narrative? How do you change the strategy? How do you convince these lawmakers that it's time to get serious about public safety?"

Martinez: "I'm hoping they are paying a whole lot of attention to what is going on in Albuquerque and the outcry of the public, saying that this revolving door of justice -- going into the jail, no matter the hours or days, coming back out of jail, committing more crimes, going back into jail -- we have law enforcement officers who are constantly arresting the same individual, and it's just a revolving door coming out of jail."

During the interview, it didn't sound like she was interested in finding middle ground. Democratic lawmakers frequently accuse the governor of taking a "my way, or no way" attitude

Ramirez: "What kind of legislation would you want to sign?"

Martinez: "Well, we actually propose legislation every single year that I've been here. And this is where I see that there hasn't been a clear understanding of what's happening in Albuquerque and how hard it is for us to let New Mexicans know they can be safe. When the Legislature, particularly the Democrats, are not focusing on better laws such as -- if you flee from Probation and Parole, is that a crime? It's not right now. It should be a crime. If you're a felon and you've been convicted and you've been found in the possession of a firearm, it should not be a simple fourth-degree felony. It should have a higher penalty."

During Martinez's tenure, major changes have hit the courts -- changes the governor believes are fueling crime.  Voters approved a constitutional amendment that ensures people don't get stuck in jail before the merits of their case are heard in court, and a rule imposed by the state Supreme Court places quick deadlines on prosecutors.  When the deadlines aren't met, judges dismiss the cases.

Martinez: "This is something that I understand very well, and maybe if we didn't have the revolving door that we have of justice … you can see the rate of when we are emptying a jail and the rate of crime starts to skyrocket. It is a common-sense analysis."

The Supreme Court's chief justice begged legislators this year for more funding, warning that New Mexico risks violating the state constitution. But when it comes to more resources, the governor draws a hard line.

Ramirez: "Is it possible to better fund DA offices and judicial districts?"

Martinez: "You know the judicial system is failing the people of New Mexico when they let people be released with no bond or ROR [released on their own recognizance], and they don't have to report to anyone and then they just skip out and not show up to court. It's an injustice to the people of New Mexico. I think there needs to be a serious look, of course, and caseloads. In Albuquerque, certainly, the caseload is extremely high at this point, but I would also agree it's not always about money. It's about how you are using your resources."

Resourcing internal departments has been an issue. For example, the 4 Investigates team two years ago discovered that the state Probation and Parole Office only has 12 investigators to track down a list of more than 1,700 absconders -- convicts who stopped reporting in.

Ramirez: "Does Probation and Parole have more resources to do that job?"

Martinez: "I'm hopeful that we put a focus on making sure we arrest these people. But keep in mind, they are in the system so that all law enforcement agencies, not just those six that are within Corrections, are on the lookout for these individuals."

That unit is using the same amount of resources today as it did two years ago.

Regarding internal resources, the governor's office provided information stating that since Martinez took office, the New Mexico State Police department has grown by 59 officers and all have received pay increases.

The governor alone can't be held responsible for today's crime climate. But despite's the governor's repeated attempts to pass crime bills, statistically New Mexico is a more dangerous state.

Credits

Chris Ramirez

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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