Repeat offenders slip through the cracks of the court system
October 29, 2017 10:44 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Blasted on billboards, they may not be famous to the average citizen. But to police, their faces have become infamous, as officers have arrested them again and again.
Thomas Montoya, 25, has been charged 30 times over seven years for shoplifting, auto burglary, drug possession, unlawfully taking a vehicle and receiving stolen property.
The day after the Albuquerque Police Department arrested Montoya in February, a judge released him to the supervision of pretrial services.
Montoya was caught allegedly doing the same thing a month earlier – police say he broke into a pickup and stole sunglasses and shoes. A grand jury indicted him.
Still, a judge ordered Montoya to check in with pretrial services.
The story of 42-year-old Stephanie Pacheco is similar. In August 2016, an APD officer asked her why she was waiting behind a Home Depot rather than in front of the store. Officers quickly figured out that the Saturn she was waiting in was stolen.
Police arrested Pacheco for possessing a stolen vehicle, but court records show she bonded out. She never showed up to court in April. Police caught her in May, and a judge sent her to pretrial services. She has been on the run since.
Albuquerque Real Time Crime Center Manager T.J. Wilham says people like Montoya and Pacheco are the reason why the city has stepped up offender-tracking.
“Alerts are taken as top priorities,” Wilham said. “We put them on the billboards, we put them on Crime Stoppers and we immediately do everything we can to get them into custody.”
Since May, the Albuquerque Police Department has worked with the FBI, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico State Police, Rio Rancho Police, New Mexico Probation and Parole, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and the Bernalillo County District attorney to create a list of high-risk, repeat offenders called “ALeRT.”
The mug shots of ALeRT suspects are advertised all over the city.
Court records obtained by 4 Investigates reveal several ALeRT offenders have been released to pretrial services after they’ve been arrested. Pretrial services is the area of the court charged with supervising suspects waiting for trial.
Defendants are supposed to check in with pretrial services regularly and may take drug tests or abide by other requirements to stay out of trouble. However, many defendants with dozens of charges on their record slip through the cracks of pretrial services and fail to show up for their court appearances.
As of the end of October, 150 people are on the ALeRT list. 22 of them are on the run from the law. They have either skipped court, failed to comply with pretrial conditions or have picked up new charges since their last arrest.
Combined, the nearly two dozen defendants have been arrested for hundreds of crimes.
4 Investigates requested an interview with Second Judicial Court administrators about the effectiveness of pretrial services. We were told the courts could not grant an interview because a public information officer position must be filled first.
New Mexico voters approved bail reform in hopes of revising the “pay for freedom” bail system. Now, many bondsmen and bounty hunters — the people who hunt down absconding defendants — are out of the equation.
It’s now up to suspects to show up to court on their own.
“I think a person being placed on Community Custody Program (CCP) or pretrial detention is better than nothing at all,” Wilham said.
Wilham says since ALeRT started, 50 high-risk offenders have been arrested. Out of those, 21 have been convicted and sentenced.
The work continues to identify and hunt down the people responsible for breaking into dozens of cars, stealing countless vehicles or breaking into several businesses who are still on the run.
Created: October 29, 2017 10:44 PM
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