New Mexico town asks for state police help amid increase in crime

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ESPAÑOLA, N.M. – Leaders in one New Mexico city said crime has gotten so bad they want extra police on their streets. 

This week Española Mayor John Ramon Vigil asked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to direct New Mexico State Police officers to temporarily help patrol and solve crimes in his city. 

State police gave similar help in October, and city officials said that led to more than 100 arrests in about a month. 

“I’m a big proponent of the broken windows theory – smaller crimes lead to more heinous crimes,” Vigil said. 

Those smaller crimes are the focus because there’s not a lot of violent crime. The city saw six homicides last year. 

But Española officials said the past few weeks there’s been an increase in shoplifting, property damage, drug trafficking and what they’re calling “aggressive panhandling.” 

“We’re trying to create a community where people can shop freely. That means they’re not being accosted at the grocery store,” Vigil said. 

Police said someone broke in and stole $100,000 worth of jewelry at one local business, and shoplifting crimes have included someone recently taking hundreds of dollars’ worth of items from Lowe’s. 

City leaders said people who don’t live here are causing many of the issues. An average of close to 100,000 people drive through every day, and they believe there’s been an increase in homeless people coming in and staying in the city. 

“It puts a major undue burden on our community,” Vigil said. 

He said the support could come in the form of three to four state police officers each day, possibly starting in the next two weeks, and lasting about a month and a half. 

“What we’re seeing is not uncommon throughout the country or throughout the state,” said Española Police Chief Mizel Garcia. 

Garcia has been on the job less than a year. He previously oversaw investigations at the Albuquerque Police Department for more than 25 years. 

He said his department could really use more officers than their budget allows. 

“Just show the community. It’s more presence, just seeing police cars,” he said. 

Garcia would welcome the support from state police. 

“Asking for help if it’s available during this short time period — we’re going to do it,” he said. “We look forward to working with them.” 

City leaders said they feel confident that the governor will grant their request. 

The governor’s office told KOB 4 on Wednesday that they’re considering it. 

Gov. Lujan Grisham has proposed more funding for officer recruitment efforts, which lawmakers are set to discuss during the ongoing legislative session.