Report: Violent crimes by New Mexico teens on the rise

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Last year was a deadly year in Albuquerque. How do teenagers factor in? Referrals and short-term stays have actually gone down – but it’s the type of cases making it into the system that have local prosecutors concerned.

“What I thought was interesting when I looked at the data that I have is that between now and 2019, cases referred to us have decreased by 50%, which is rather shocking,” said Diana Garcia, deputy district attorney for Bernalillo County.

The same goes for short-term detention in the state. The population was nearly cut in half from FY20 to FY21. It was brought up just last month in a legislative meeting.

“New Mexico, and particularly Bernalillo County, specifically, has become a model site nationally about really trying to keep kids out of correctional facilities and really intervening in a healthy way in their lives prior to having to detain them,” said CYFD Secretary Barbara Vigil, during that legislative meeting.

It sounds like good news, but Garcia said there’s more to that. Last year, they saw 50% fewer referrals, but the cases that did make it to her office were much more violent. There was an 88% increase in those serious violent offenses for things like murder, rape, and armed robbery.

“They’re definitely on the increase and it concerns me because almost doubling the number of serious violent crimes being committed by youth is shocking,” said Garcia. “When I looked at the numbers, I was shocked.”

Right now, she said they’ve seen a trend in the type of crimes being committed – like teens using social media to set up drug deals with the intention of robbing someone.

“Another scenario that we’re seeing more frequently is girls being involved. Where they set a meet up with a guy and when the guy shows up to meet the girl there are other kids there who end up robbing him,” said Garcia.

The most troubling part, many of these violent offenders have little to no prior criminal history.

To read the most recent New Mexico Juvenile Justice Services Report, click here.