MMIWR task force makes recommendations to combat growing crisis
New Mexico is among the top ten states for the most missing American Indian and Alaskan natives. That’s according to a report from Urban Indian Health Institute, which found Albuquerque was among other cities like Omaha and San Francisco, with the highest number of urban cases.
A report by the state’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force or MMIWR estimates that a total of 287 Indigenous women were reported missing in New Mexico between 2014 through 2019. However, according to a report from Source New Mexico, it’s uncertain just how many cases are in New Mexico.
Members of the taskforce recently outlined steps the state should take to tackle those staggering numbers.
They presented ideas to lawmakers last week that would improve public outreach and interagency cooperation.
"Many families are feeling isolated, frustrated, and hurt that they have no answers about what happened to their loved one," said Stephanie Salazar, general counsel of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department.
Since underreporting is one of the major challenges that the task force encountered during their research, members of the task force first recommended creating a New Mexico Missing Persons day where families can file missing person reports, submit medical records, and speak directly with detectives.
"We must continue to do our part to bring answers and justice to each of these individuals and their families. Because it’s not solely an Indigenous crisis, it’s a public safety crisis for our state" said Salazar.
Salazar, along with members of the task force, also recommended establishing a permanent MMIWR office to bring together state, federal, and tribal law enforcement to improve collaboration among their offices.
In addition, a permanent office would provide law enforcement training that focuses on prevention and mitigating racial misclassifications that hinder the accuracy of missing persons reports and data.
One important facet to the office would be having the authority to establish a state-led cold case task force. Data from 2014-2019 points to 986 missing persons cases in the state, of those cases only 32% were solved. Out of those solved cases, 75% were white and just 16% were American Indian and Alaskan Native.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who signed a bill in 2019 that created the task force, will review the recommendations.