Updated: January 13, 2020 10:31 PM
Created: January 13, 2020 04:48 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- What is causing crime in Albuquerque? It’s a question leaders have to grapple with as they try to make the city safer.
In 2019, 82 people were killed in the Duke City, a new record.
‘Where we are is in a terrible place and what we're doing is not working and the whole criminal justice system is broke," said state Sen. Sander Rue.
The state senator, who represents Albuquerque’s West Side, believes one crime driver may be that New Mexico's prison system is making inmates better criminals for when they leave the system.
"The reality is over 95% of the individuals that are in prisons and jails will eventually be released back into our communities," Rue claimed.
New Mexico leads the country when it comes to felons leaving prison, only to return for a new crime.
“Over half of them will recidivate,” Rue said. “(They) will commit another crime and find themselves back in the jails and the prisons."
Rue also believes a lot of the crime in Albuquerque may be generational.
“A lot of these young people are born into this sort of thing,” Rue said. “They have relatives that are in prison or been in prison and that's what they grew up knowing and that was their reality and what they had to deal with on a regular basis so then often times they find themselves cycling into the system too."
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also believes what happens during a kid's childhood determines so much about what kind of an adult they will be.
“We can't have kids who are in abusive relationships in families. We can't deal with poverty in the same way that we have. We can't have kids who are hungry and sick. We can't have the only opportunity for a 14-year-old or 15-year-old truant kid is to be engaged in property crime and here we go, right,” the governor said. “We have to do something about our drug epidemic."
However, New Mexico's behavioral health system is in shambles.
Rue believes a lack of proper mental health care may be contributing to violent crime.
“So much of this cycle of crime starts with these low-level offenses and often times, the underlying cause is an addiction to alcohol or drugs, behavioral health issues,” Rue said. “It's not against the law to have a behavioral health issue. It's not against the law to be an addict or have substance abuse issues. It's against the law when you act out because of that, so if we can get to the root cause of some of this, get to these people early, then hopefully we can keep them out of that cycle that begins to escalate."
That escalation can lead to violent crime, and many of those offenders commit crimes over and over again.
The governor believes those repeat offenders need to stay behind bars.
“We have to prosecute individuals who are a threat to our communities,” the governor said.
Rue has a similar point of view.
“It isn't rocket science, but there are some individuals that just don't belong on our streets," Rue said.’
New Mexico's Supreme Court, in January, ordered the creation of a committee to consider possible changes to pretrial detention rules.
Those changes could keep offenders off the streets.
Lawmakers plan on doing more work during the 2020 legislative session to combat crime, but they will have to work together.
“I am hopeful, going forward, that we'll begin to see this thing turn around,” Rue said. “But, we're all going to have to put our shoulders to the cart and push. It's going to be work."
The governor said she is committed to making the state safer.
“I want to know that everyone is doing their part,” she said. “It's going to take a statewide effort, and I'm serious about it.”
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