US attorney details collaborative effort to combat crime in metro
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Trying to curb violent crime in the Albuquerque metro has required efforts at the local, state and federal levels.
“There is no prosperity if people don’t feel safe. And so our first responsibility here in justice is to make people feel safe,” U.S. Attorney Alex Uballez said.
Leaders like Uballez say it’s only a matter of time until you start noticing change in your neighborhood.
Attorney Uballez took direction from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2020 to assist in prosecuting violent crime – and ran with it. Uballez has “special assistant U.S. attorneys” in Bernalillo County and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.
Those attorneys are also now working in the First Judicial District Court that covers northern New Mexico.
“Having that bridge between us and a DA’s office is a really powerful tool for us to have someone who has insight on both sides,” Uballez said.
The attorneys review every felony complaint and decide if the feds can step in.
Of the 350 cases reviewed in Bernalillo County so far this year, Uballez’s office adopted 30 of them – with another 50 under investigation. They say violent cases are a key target.
Prosecution, though, is only half the fault.
“Enforcement alone doesn’t work, right? We can’t incarcerate a way out of this. But also that, you know, leniency and support services alone don’t work,” Uballez said.
Last month, the mayor, APD Chief Medina and the district attorney came together with other stakeholders for a call-in. They presented to a group of 13 people on state supervision most at risk of falling into a cycle of violence.
“There’s presentations from a trauma surgeon. There’s presentations from people who’ve experienced the loss from gun violence and their family members. And then there’s, at the end, there’s an offer of services,” Uballez said.
Albuquerque Community Safety, the agency that houses the city’s Violence Intervention Program, led the call-in.
“We’re trying to make sure we’re disrupting those cycles of violence. And as you disrupt those cycles of violence, you also spread that reputation, that the city is here for you, the city wants to take this head-on,” said Jeffery Bustamante, the deputy director of violence prevention and intervention at ACS.
Between ACS and other partners, Bustamante says they heard from most of the group at the call-in.
“It may start with 13 right there. But really it circles out as they go home and they get connected with us and others they know, get connected with us. Again, it amplifies,” Bustamante said.
In May, Albuquerque leaders announced a partnership with the feds to tackle downtown gun crimes. They deemed most of downtown a school zone so they could federally charge under the “Gun-Free School Zones Act.”
As of now, they haven’t had to use it.