Rising New Mexico Crime Propelled By Albuquerque, Neglect Strains NM Protection Program

Sep 26, 2017

Rising New Mexico Crime Rates Propelled By AlbuquerqueThe Associated Press

The FBI is reporting rising rates of property and violent crime in New Mexico that is largely propelled by increases in the state's most populous city Albuquerque.

The agency's Crime in the United States report released on Monday shows that violent crime and property crime increased by 6.8 percent and 6.2 percent across the state between 2015 and 2016.

Albuquerque saw violent crime increase by 15.5 percent and property crime rise by 13.3 percent.

Although crime rates for New Mexico are lower than they were decades ago, the crime spike in Albuquerque comes on the heels of four consecutive years of rising violent crime.

The FBI estimates that the rates of both violent crime and property crime dropped in rural and suburban areas in the state.

Child Abuse, Neglect Strain New Mexico Protection ProgramThe Associated Press

State analysts say New Mexico's child protection system is straining to keep pace with an increase in abuse and neglect cases, despite more public spending.

An analysis published Tuesday by the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee shows the protective services program for children in state custody has failed to meet seven out of eight performance goals.

For the fiscal year ending in June, the program missed benchmarks for reunifying children with parents in under a year, the number of children returning to foster care and the speed of adoptions.

The number of children placed in protective care in New Mexico increased by 6 percent to 2,674 during the one-year period ending in June.

The state spends 21 percent more on protective programs for children than it did four years ago.

Gov. Martinez Wants Politicians Off Investment CouncilThe Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says she supports removing elected officials — including the state governor — from a council overseeing the investment of $21 billion in state funds amid concerns about political donations from investment firms hired by the state.

Martinez announced her support Tuesday for changes to the composition of the New Mexico State Investment Council that would remove any appearance of impropriety when it comes to campaign or political donations from private firms that are paid to invest state money.

Martinez previously vetoed a bill that would have removed her from the investment council while keeping two other elected officials in place — the state treasurer and land commissioner.

The 11-member council oversees an endowment derived from oil and natural gas production that supplements the state budget.

US, Mexico Expand Pact On Managing Overused Colorado RiverThe Associated Press

The U.S. and Mexico have agreed to expand a far-reaching conservation agreement that governs how they manage the overused Colorado River, which supplies water to millions of people and farms in both nations.

U.S. water district officials say the agreement to be signed Wednesday calls for the United States to invest $31.5 million to improve Mexico's water infrastructure and reduce waste. The water saved would be shared by users in both nations and by environmental projects.

The officials also say Mexico will develop plans for reducing consumption in the event of a river water shortage. That would happen after major U.S. river users finish their own shortage plan.

The International Boundary and Water Commission declined to release a copy of the agreement before Wednesday's signing in New Mexico.

New Mexico Authorities To Investigate Livestock KillingsThe Associated Press & The Carlsbad Current-Argus

Authorities in southeastern New Mexico are teaming up to investigate a string of livestock killings.

Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage says his jurisdiction covers more than 5,000 square miles and his deputies can't be everywhere at once so a task force is being formed to help with the problem.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that several cattle were killed on a local ranch in August, resulting in an estimated $20,000 loss. Several cattle also were shot the previous summer.

Investigators said both instances amounted to extreme animal cruelty and that anyone arrested in connection with the shootings could face felony charges.

Cage has deputized a Bureau of Land Management ranger to help with the case and is working with other local and federal agencies and organizations.

New Mexico Receives Road Money As Part Of SettlementThe Associated Press

New Mexico has received almost $27 million from the U.S. Energy Department as part of a settlement reached over a radiation release that forced a nearly three-year shutdown at the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository.

State officials and the agency inked the agreement in early 2016 over dozens of permit violations stemming from the mishap at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad two years earlier. At the time, the total $74 million settlement was the largest ever negotiated between a state and the Energy Department. It followed months of negotiations.

Gov. Susana Martinez says the settlement was meant to hold the federal government accountable and she's pleased some of the funds will go toward improving the waste transportation routes that lead to the repository.

New Mexico Dispute Over Bail Reform Escalates In CourtAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court is pushing back against a lawsuit that seeks to block new rules governing pre-trial release of defendants.

On behalf of the court, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has described the lawsuit from the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico and several state lawmakers as frivolous and asked a federal court to sanction the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Bail Bond Association President Gerald Madrid on Monday accused state prosecutors of using strong-arm tactics in court.

Proponents of the new rules say they help ensure defendants are not kept in jail only because they cannot afford bail provisions.

Voters approved a state constitutional amendment last year that lets judges deny bail to dangerous defendants and overhaul the pre-trial release system for others.

New Mexico Prosecutor Calls On School Board Member To ResignAssociated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is seeking the resignation of a member of the Albuquerque Public Schools education board concerning her prior role as executive director at a charter school that is under scrutiny for the alleged embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Balderas on Monday wrote to Analee Maestas to say she no longer qualifies for her position on the education board in light of concerns regarding the misuse of public funds at La Promesa Early Learning Center.

Maestas has said she was unaware of any wrongdoing at La Promesa. The state auditor's office has reported allegations that La Promesa's former assistant business manager — Maestas' daughter — had deposited over 500 checks worth more than $475,000 into her personal bank account over several years.

Officer Was Traveling About 67 Mph At Time Of Fatal CrashAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

An investigation shows an Albuquerque police officer was driving approximately 67 mph in April when his cruiser slammed into a car that was carrying a 6-year-old who died in the collision.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Officer Johnathan McDonnell had emergency lights and sirens on and was able to brake, but still collided with Antoinette Suina's car.

Both drivers had green lights.

Suina didn't see any cars coming when she started to make a turn.

An investigator wrote that he didn't believe either driver should be criminally charged.

The investigation was forwarded to prosecutors for review.

Joel Anthony Suina, 6, died as a result of the wreck, and his 9-year-old sister suffered a pelvic fracture and other injuries.

McDonnell suffered extensive leg injuries and a bruised lung.

Authorities Seek Man Accused Of Threatening GirlfriendAssociated Press

SWAT team members entered an Albuquerque home in search of a man accused of threatening his girlfriend with a weapon.

But the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office says no one was inside Monday when they entered the home.

Sandia Preparatory School, located less than a mile away, was under a temporary lockdown while officers were at the home in an effort to locate 35-year-old Steven Lucero.

Lucero was believed to be inside the home and armed.

Authorities who had gotten a warrant to search the home made attempts to contact anyone inside.

But ultimately SWAT team members didn't find anyone inside.

Authorities say Lucero's girlfriend had reported the alleged threat on Saturday night.

Lucero also is wanted on unrelated arrest warrants on charges of child abuse, aggravated battery and false imprisonment.

FBI Report Shows Spike In Crime In AlbuquerqueAlbuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s largest city bucked a nationwide trend of modest crime increases with spikes in murders and other violent offenses between 2015 and 2016.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the FBI’s most recent Crime in the United States report showed violent crime rose in Albuquerque by 15.5 percent to 6,245 instances during that time period and murders by 41.8 percent to 61 homicides.

Property crimes were also up even though they declined nationally. The biggest spike came in auto thefts, with 7,710 reported, representing an increase of 50 percent from the previous year.

Reports of rape dropped, the only category that showed a decline.

Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden blamed the increase partially on a Supreme Court case management order designed to decrease the jail population.

But Shaun Willoughby, head of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, blamed understaffing in the police department.

Santa Fe School Board Member Running For MayorSanta Fe New Mexican

A member of the Santa Fe Public Schools board elected earlier this year has announced her bid for the mayor’s office.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Kate Noble is the fifth candidate in the race. Mayor Javier Gonzales announced this month he would not seek re-election.

Former gubernatorial candidate and entrepreneur Alan Webber said he would announce on Tuesday whether he plans to run. Valerie Espinoza, who sits on the state Public Regulation Commission, is also considering running.

Noble previously served as acting housing and economic development director for the city of Santa Fe. She is also a former journalist with BBC World TV.

The election takes place March 6 and marks a shift in the mayoral office from part-time to full-time, with additional powers.

Berry Touts Economy In Final State Of City SpeechAlbuquerque Journal

Mayor Richard J. Berry said the city of Albuquerque is strong and the next mayor will take over a city government running efficiently within a growing economy.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Berry delivered his final state of the city address Monday, touting more than $1 billion in infrastructure projects while acknowledging a growing crime problem.

Crime and the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project have contributed to dismal approval numbers recently for Berry. He told the audience at a commercial real estate group’s luncheon that hiring more police officers may not be enough to curtail growing crime.

Berry said the city has added 25,000 jobs since mid-2012, despite a loss in federal jobs. Gross receipts taxes have grown over the last seven years and more tourists are coming to the city, he said.

Berry has two more months on his term. Eight candidates are running for mayor, with the election slated for Oct. 3.