ABQ 4WARD: Lawmakers discuss potential solutions to teen crime problem | KOB 4

ABQ 4WARD: Lawmakers discuss potential solutions to teen crime problem

Tessa Mentus
Updated: January 31, 2020 10:49 PM
Created: January 31, 2020 08:55 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Lawmakers in New Mexico were invited to KOB 4 to talk about the surge in teen violence.

Many of them have different opinions about how to solve the crisis.


Rep. Debbie Armstrong expressed concern about juvenile offenders, as young as 14 years old, being able to refuse treatment.

“There ought to be a skilled individuals, particular, when you know that's the issue you're dealing with is traumatized, and kids with disabilities and or behavioral health issues, to know how to approach them, to incentivize and talk them into doing that,” Armstrong said. “So a bill that I'm considering maybe not- it may not happen this session but is to actually require trauma-informed continuing education for all medical and behavioral health licensed professionals, to require trauma-informed care training in their continuing education."

Rep. Bill Rehm believes the problem extends beyond juvenile justice.

“I was looking at the trades program, and Representative Maestas and I are actually working on this, but I'm upset with the corrections. So we went through the different trades that they had, and we came to the auto shop. They've got at least ten cars in there, and they have four inmates working on them, and I'm going 'why are there not more inmates?'” Rehm said. Well, our good time allows you to sit on your butt and get the same amount if you go and learn something. So working with corrections, I said I want to amend it where, okay, you get good time for good behavior, but you get accelerated good time, if you want to learn a trade. And as recently as two weeks ago, I called Corrections and I said, ‘okay, where's the input because you guys are going to have to help us write this correctly,’ and still they haven't responded."

Rep. Liz Thomson is in favor on individualized programs that are aimed at rehabilitation.

“If you know, if dad has abused the kid, make it family therapy because forcing people to do things they don't want to do is only going to make them crankier or worse, so I think we need to figure out a way to incentivize them. You know "okay, you can get your GED," or you know that "there's a job waiting for you afterwards,’” she said.

But what about intervening before those kids even get into the system?

Police told KOB 4 they feel handcuffed when trying to hold kids accountable for minor crimes because their detainment depends on a point system, which is overseen by the state's Juvenile Probation and Parole Division.

“If a young person can meet a police on a basketball court, talking out in front of talking out in front of a 7-11, then they're less likely to, down the road, commit a crime,” said Rep. Joy Garratt. “So we really need to support our law enforcement with the kind of tools, this is something that we're all concerned about with our capital outlay money, so that we can spend more time doing the work of community policing, instead of pulling their car aside and spending four hours on data. Two of those four hours might be better used meeting kids, inspiring kids. Our police officers are pretty dang cool, so if they can be used in that way, it will help everybody."
Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas said agencies need to do a better job at communicating with each other.

“You have the Department of Health, you have Criminal Justice, you have Early ED and PED, you know, public schools, so we have a- so we're going to put legislation this year that hopefully will come to fruition next year, a family- a family laboratory database in which they communicate with one another, and they track people without violating people's privacy rights," he said.

Every lawmaker who attended the discussion said they support an increase in behavioral health services.

In 2013, former Gov. Susana Martinez froze Medicaid payments to more than a dozen behavioral health nonprofit organization, citing fraud concerns.

Lawmakers claim the state never recovered.

“Families and individuals who needed assistance through behavioral health programs suddenly were cut off ‘cause you can't just change a therapist for people,” Rep. Marian Matthews said. “One of the things that's happened now is the number of the youngsters who were young at the point of time when that occurred, they're now growing into being teenagers, and we're seeing the result, I think at least in part of the fact that services suddenly went dark."

Rep. Debbie Armstrong said there is a big need for support services.

“We have to get back to really solid behavioral health substance abuse, family support services and intervention early with families and kids and try to decrease the trauma and the parenting,” she said. “That's been as a result of that substance abuse and low economic status, homelessness, people floating around with no place to live. I think it's just all compounded."

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