Crime bill advocates express frustration over stalled progress

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Legislature’s 60-day session nears its halfway point and advocates behind several crime bills say progress is at a standstill.

Session after session, advocates speak at the Roundhouse to speak on behalf of lost loved ones and fight for stricter crime laws. All the while, they say they have little hope they’ll see significant progress.

“It’s not an easy one, but we’ll all get through this and eventually change will come,” Veronica Rael said.

Eventually, being the keyword.

Crime victim advocates took over the Roundhouse’s rotunda Thursday for a morning of remembrance, education and more requests for change.

“Between 2015 and yesterday, there are over 1,200 people that have died because of murder in New Mexico. So if we don’t think we have a problem, I think we need to wake up and open our eyes,” said Nicole Chavez, the founder of Repeat Offenders Bring Death, Destruction and Devastation (ROBD) group.

This is Nicole Chavez’s seventh session in Santa Fe. The memory of her son, Jayden, fuels her.

“I look at my son’s face or, when I visit him at the cemetery like this is his voice. His voice was taken away. He was murdered, he no longer has a voice and we have to talk on behalf of all the crime victims in the state,” Chavez said.

Just like the six prior sessions, she’s feeling discouraged at the halfway point.

“Absolutely nothing if you’re talking about crime and talking about victims. Every single crime bill that we’ve been fighting for so far has died or been tabled,” Chavez stated.

  • House Bill 58, a three-strikes bill for violent offenders, has died
  • House Bill 59, which would make carrying a firearm while selling drugs a third-degree felony, also died
  • House Bill 61, which proposed stricter punishments for felons in possession of a firearm, also died

“This is supposed to be a house of the people and they’re not looking at the people that are being violated by crime every day. We’re not addressing it,” Chavez said.

Chavez says they still have hope for bail reform, including a Senate bill to keep some of those most violent offenders behind bars until trial and funding for victim advocates across the state.

“When we talk about these victims, when you look at their pictures, there are people attached to them. Parents, mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers, spouses, and our lives will never be the same. They have significantly changed.”

If only they could see that same sort of significant change in our laws.

“If I can have one less mother sitting in my shoes today I’ll take it,” Chavez expressed.

While progress has stalled out on several bills, House Bill 9 – known as Bennie’s Act – passed the House. That bill would establish punishments for those who don’t secure their gun(s) and allow a juvenile to get it and use it. It now heads to the Senate.