'Rural areas are paying the price': Sheriff talks on moving officers to Albuquerque | KOB 4
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'Rural areas are paying the price': Sheriff talks on moving officers to Albuquerque

Marian Camacho
May 30, 2019 10:31 AM

OTERO COUNTY, N.M. - The sheriff of Otero County isn't holding anything back in a recent editorial piece written in the Las Cruces Sun News.

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In the letter, Sheriff David Black describes what has been happening in his county due to a "lack of manpower resources." According to Black, the county is dealing with a huge increase in drug activity and rise in crime.

He points to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's recent move in sending 50 State Police officers to Albuquerque to help tackle the influx in crime, saying that rural areas are now paying the price due to a lack of help.

Read the full letter below:

As sheriff of Otero County, I would like to share with you the impact the recent border crisis has had on our community in Otero County as well as the impact the deployment of six New Mexico State Police officers from our community to assist the Albuquerque Police Department.

Otero County is dealing with a huge influx in drugs via two main drug smuggling corridors. With the removal of the National Guard troops from our southern border, the United States Border Patrol checkpoints closing on March 25, 2019, and reallocation of the New Mexico State Police, crime is on the rise in Otero County. We at the Otero County Sheriff’s Office have redirected all of our unobligated patrol efforts to highway interdiction on US 54 and US 70.

We have had several multi-agency operations including the Alamogordo Police Department, New Mexico State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration. In February 2019, we joined with these agencies to become part of the White Mountain Narcotics task force. As of this date we have been able to seize approximately $121,000 in narcotics just in Otero County. In February we seized approximately $3,500 worth of drugs. In March of 2019 approximately $23,000. In April of 2019 approximately $62,790 worth of drugs in Otero County. Each month the amount grows. In addition to the drugs we have made 32 felony arrests and seized a large number of guns. We were also able to solve five burglaries with information from these arrests, in addition to seizing 14 vehicles and large amounts of cash all with a nexus to Mexico and drug smuggling.

Today our resources are stretched thin as we have relied on the New Mexico State Police to assist in several of these operations. With the recent decision by the governor of New Mexico to reassign 50 New Mexico State Police officers to the Albuquerque area for help, this has taken resources from all of the counties leaving numerous counties in crisis with even less resources to combat these problems and others.

Due to the lack of manpower resources, we have had to cancel several pending operations as we do not have the manpower to safely complete these operations without the help of our New Mexico State Police and US Border Patrol counterparts.

While lending our resources are helping to reduce the Albuquerque crime problems our more rural areas of New Mexico are paying the price. With the reduction in police presence in our community and our borders being wide open, crime is now on the rise in Otero County and I suspect in other counties as well.

In order to protect the citizens of Otero County we now find ourselves in the same predicament as Albuquerque, a manpower shortage. Robbing Peter to pay Paul just won't work. Regardless of your party affiliation, we have a serious crisis in southern New Mexico at the border.

Gov. Grisham has said that this problem is not her problem, that it is a federal level problem. When the uninterrupted flow of drugs, crime and human trafficking is coming into the state of New Mexico it is all our problem.

I would implore her to re-examine what is happening in the southern part of our great state.

NEW MEXICO STATE POLICE RESPONSE

In response to Sheriff David Black's editorial, Lt. Mark Soriano, public information officer for New Mexico State Police, said the operation in Albuquerque has not stopped the department from being proactive in all areas of the state. 

Lt. Soriana sent KOB the following statement in full: 

New Mexico State Police is committed to serving and providing professional law enforcement services to the citizens of New Mexico. That includes Otero County. The recent deployment of 50 officers to the Albuquerque operation has not in any way stopped New Mexico State Police from being proactive in any and all areas of the state. New Mexico State Police has been working with Otero County Sheriff David Black and the citizens in Otero County to address concerns about crime as part of the agency's normal professional operations.

In April 2019, New Mexico State Police began conducting added proactive operations in and around Otero County after the county declared a "state of emergency" with regard to a federal checkpoint closing. New Mexico State Police efforts have been focused on drug interdiction on highways entering Otero County. New Mexico State Police has not and will not decline any reasonable requests for assistance from any law enforcement agencies around the state during the Albuquerque operation. We can and will continue to provide professional, high-quality service to every district in the state; that is our job, and we will always hold ourselves to that highest of standards.

The ongoing operations include 26 NMSP officers assigned to the Alamogordo district and officers from surrounding NMSP districts.

To date, our proactive operations have generated the following;

Traffic stops/citizen contacts: 1000

Citations: 621

Arrests: 18

These operations support the Department’s commitment to addressing concerns of New Mexicans impacted by crime. New Mexico State Police will monitor crime trends, analyze the effectiveness of our proactive operations and adjust our approach in our continued effort to reduce and eliminate criminal activity in our communities. Chief Johnson looks forward to the ongoing dialogue with the various Chiefs and Sheriffs to address crime suppression efforts in every community in this state.

Credits

Marian Camacho

Copyright 2019 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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