TUES: Albuquerque Police Report Drop In Crime, Navajo Nation Extends Lockdown + More

Sep 22, 2020

Albuquerque Police Say Overall Crime Down 5% In All CategoriesAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Albuquerque police officials say overall crime in the city is down 5% across all categories in the first six months of 2020, compared with the first half of last year and 15% since 2018.

The Albuquerque Journal obtained a copy of the police report and reported Tuesday that violent crime has gone down by only 0.28% from 2019 to 2020 but by 4% over two years.

City police say crimes against property such as arson, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny and robbery have decreased 6% from 2019 to 2020 and 19% since 2018.

Crimes against society such as animal cruelty, drug offenses, prostitution and weapon law violations have gone down 8% from last year to this year and 12% from 2018 to 2020.

Albuquerque's acting Police Chief Harold Medina attributed the decrease in crime to the hiring of more officers and the department's crime-fighting tactics.

The Journal said Albuquerque is releasing its crime statistics this year using the National Incident-Based Reporting System, which the FBI will soon require of all police departments for its annual report.

New Mexico Taps Federal Loans To Pay UnemploymentAssociated Press

New Mexico has depleted its unemployment benefits trust fund and begun to use federal loans to keep up with claims.

Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley told a panel of state legislators on Tuesday that unemployment trust reserves were exhausted on Sept. 8 and that the state has spent about $35 million in borrowed federal funds on claims.

The federal loans if left unpaid can eventually trigger tax increases.

New Mexico's unemployment rate of 11.4% in August exceeds neighboring states as health officials take gradual steps toward reopening the economy and schools.

About 123,000 people statewide are receiving unemployment benefits.

New Mexico health officials reported an additional 110 coronavirus cases and three additional deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total statewide number of cases to 27,790 and 854 deaths.

The spread rate has increased slightly since early September.

Officials say the increase was expected after some restrictions were lifted and it's likely that increased travel around the Labor Day holiday had a role.

New Mexico Agency To Provide More Help For Child Care Access - By Cedar Attanasio AP/Report For America

In its latest attempt to bolster access to child care, New Mexico is allowing subsidies for parents who work or study remotely.

Families at or below 200% of the poverty line can apply for assistance. The Early Childhood Education and Care Department said Tuesday that the changes allowing remote workers and students to use the subsidies are permanent.

Parents have been struggling to balance work and child care with most schools closed because of the pandemic.

Child care providers also have struggled to stay afloat with higher costs to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and lower profits because fewer children are allowed in their buildings at once.

The inclusion of remote workers and students is the latest effort by New Mexico officials to support access to child care. That may come rather late for some parents who faced difficult choices on child care weeks ago.

In August, parents scrambled for limited child care when many child care programs ended, along with co-payment waivers for those families that were eligible for subsidies.

Weeks later, the subsidies were reinstated.

New Mexico Council Takes On Resources, Environmental Equity - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says the state's natural resources are plentiful, but there have been missed opportunities to create prosperity because minority communities haven't been involved.

He announced Tuesday that he's establishing a council to look into bolstering inclusion of communities of color for decisions about environmental protection and access to natural resources.

The Equity Advisory Council that will start work soon includes state lawmakers and advocates who work on water, land and livestock issues.

Balderas says he is open to adding more members because the goal is to welcome more diverse perspectives.

Balderas cited forest-thinning regulations, saying Hispanic communities in northern New Mexico have been prevented from playing a bigger role in caring for the forests that their families have relied on for generations amid escalating threats of climate change and wildfires.

He also pointed to hunting and fishing rules that don't take into consideration communities' traditional ties to the land as well as the challenges of balancing oil and gas development with cultural and environmental preservation.

The council's first meeting is expected in the coming weeks. But no schedule has been set.

New Mexico Reports 110 New Virus Cases And Three More DeathsKUNM

New Mexico health officials report 110 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 27,790.

Bernalillo had the most new cases at 21, followed by Doña Ana County with 18 and Eddy County with 14.

There were also three additional deaths, bringing that total to 854.

There are currently 69 people hospitalized. That includes people who may have been diagnosed outside the state but were hospitalized in New Mexico. It does not include people who tested positive for COVID-19 here and sent to a hospital outside the state.

The New Mexico Department of Health has designated 15,586 COVID-19 cases as having recovered.

Navajo To Extend Weekend Lockdown Because Of New Virus CasesAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation is implementing a stricter weekend lockdown as it looks into new clusters of coronavirus cases.

Residents of the vast reservation that extends into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah will be required to stay home from Friday evening until early Monday morning. A previous lockdown was a day shorter.

Tribal President Jonathan Nez says the tribe is investigating new cases that resulted from family gatherings around Ganado, Arizona, and on the eastern side of the reservation in New Mexico.

A new public health order with the extended lockdown is expected Tuesday.

The tribe reported 11 new cases of the coronavirus late Monday, which doesn't include the new clusters. That brings the total number of cases to 10,131. The death toll stands at 548.

Effort To Expand Railroad In Northwestern New Mexico BoostedAssociated Press

Efforts to expand railroad service in northwestern New Mexico have been bolstered by a $2 million federal grant.

San Juan County was among hundreds of entities that applied for funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The county will receive $2 million to study the economic viability of a rail spur, and the design and construction.

The county and the Navajo Nation agreed earlier this year to pursue a freight railroad to serve the Four Corners region. It's been the topic of several studies over the decades.

Efforts have intensified recently because of anticipated economic losses from the coal-fired power plants.

Justice Department Sees Bias In Capacity Limits On Private SchoolsMorgan Lee, Associated Press

The U.S. Justice Department is siding with the father of a seventh-grade prep school student in a lawsuit that challenges pandemic-related limits on classroom capacity at private schools in New Mexico as more restrictive than public school guidelines.

Albuquerque-based U.S. Attorney John Anderson filed a statement of interest on Monday that argues the state is violating the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by limiting attendance at private schools to 25% of building capacity when public school guidelines say 50%, though only select groups of elementary school and disabled students have returned to classrooms.

The initial lawsuit was filed earlier this month by Douglas Peterson, the father of a student at Albuquerque Academy, after the school opted for online instruction in response to the state's public health order. Peterson is seeking a restraining order and preliminary injunction to lift the 25% capacity limit.

The administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says public schools have greater oversight requirements that accompany the higher 50% capacity limit.

New Mexico Governor Says Trump 'Botched' Pandemic ResponseMorgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is sending campaign emails that accuse President Trump of single-handedly botching the nation’s coronavirus response.

Governors including Lujan Grisham and California’s Gavin Newsom have been noticeably reluctant at times to criticize Trump publicly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as their state’s rely heavily on aid from the federal government to respond to the crisis and balance budgets.

That tone shifts in a campaign email from Lujan Grisham that says Trump refused to take action “while knowing how deadly and dangerous COVID-19 would be.”

Lujan Grisham, whose first term runs through 2022, publicly addressed Trump by name in April as she said the president was welcome to visit New Mexico — if he wears a mask, avoids mass rallies and brings personal protection equipment to the state aboard Air Force One. She tweeted to thank Trump in July when the president wore a face mask in public for the first time.

Trump last visited New Mexico a year ago for a rally in Rio Rancho.

 New Mexico Utility, Lab Partner To Make Grid More Resilient Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Officials on Monday announced New Mexico’s largest electric utility and one of the nation's premiere federal research laboratories will team up on a series of projects aimed at making the electric grid more resilient as the state prepares to add more renewable energy to the mix.

The research and development partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and Public Service Co. of New Mexico is designed to address energy challenges not just in New Mexico but across the U.S.

As New Mexico and other states mandate that more electricity come from solar, wind and other renewable sources, utilities and regulators have acknowledged that demand can outpace supply when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing.

The New Mexico utility earlier this summer asked customers to reduce their electricity use, saying cloud cover was affecting solar generation as a heat wave threatened to increase demand.

For PNM, the partnership will help the utility reach its goal of being 100% emissions-free by 2040 — five years ahead of the statewide deadline that is outlined in New Mexico's Energy Transition Act.

Navajo Nation Report 11 New Coronavirus Cases And No DeathsAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials on Monday reported 11 new confirmed cases of coronavirus but no additional deaths for the second consecutive day.

The Navajo Department of Health said the number of known COVID-19-related deaths remains at 548 since the pandemic began. The total number of confirmed cases is now 10,031 which includes one additional case that was previously unreported due to delayed reporting.

Tribal health officials say 102,442 people have been tested for the coronavirus and 7,234 have recovered on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

The Navajo Nation enforced another 32-hour partial weekend lockdown, which ‪‪began at 9 p.m. Saturday and ended at 5 a.m. Monday, to help control and prevent the spread of COVID-19.