The Associated Press & Patrick Hayes
Updated: November 20, 2019 06:49 PM
Created: November 20, 2019 06:49 AM
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico’s top prosecutor wants to create a special investigative unit to guard against hate crimes and bolster cybersecurity in response to the August mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and other emergent threats.
Attorney General Hector Balderas on Tuesday asked the Legislature to provide funding for five new employees as a precaution against potential attacks on public schools, retail stores and other vulnerable public venues.
"We are seeing increased activity in domestic terrorism. We're seeing increased activity in threats online," Balderas said.
Police say a gunman was targeting Mexicans as he opened fire on Aug. 3 at a retail store within 10 miles (15 kilometers) of New Mexico, killing 22 people. More than 40% of New Mexico residents claim Latino heritage.
Officials including Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have expressed support for possible new criminal statutes related to domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
State Rep. Bill Rehm, who is on the Criminal Justice Reform Committee, said he also supports the idea.
"So many times what we see, most all of these have mental illness issues. We need to respond to it but I don't know if we need to call it the hate crime unit," he said.
Balderas said he is also asking legislators to update the law and make stronger penalties for those convicted.
"But ultimately the unit I want to build would work with the general public so that we can do everything we can to prevent these type of horrific crimes and more importantly recommend when their needs to be civil interventions -- we want to make sure that people need that need help are getting the resources they deserve," he said.
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