ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Citing Albuquerque’s rising crime rate, recent tragedies and a shortfall in police officers, Senate Democrats said that they want to prioritize public safety funding in the next legislative session.
At a news conference, Sen. Michael Padilla – the chamber’s majority whip – outlined a series of measures for reversing statistics that show a rise in violent crime in Albuquerque while police department staffing, which stands at about 850 officers for a city of roughly 500,000, remains 30 percent below where city officials say it should be.
He and other Democratic lawmakers’ proposals for tougher penalties for most violent crimes, increased funding for drug addiction and mental health treatment facilities, and pay raises for public safety officers came hours after Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, charted out his priorities for the 30-day legislative season in January.
Both sides said they support a constitutional amendment to reform the state’s bail bond system so that judges can deny bail to the most violent offenders.
“We want Albuquerque to be the best place to be a family and the worst place to be a criminal,” Berry said.
In addition to bail bond reform, Berry also said he would push for a new “three strikes” law for violent repeat offenders, and add attacks against police to the state’s “hate crime” law.
Rep. Paul Pacheco, a Republican, said he plans to introduce the “three strikes” measure. The state’s current version of the law has come under criticism by the law enforcement community for being ineffective, and Pacheco, a former police officer, said no one has been convicted under the law since it went into effect two decades ago because it is so narrow.
Berry was joined by Pacheco, state and local law enforcement officials and other GOP state lawmakers at City Hall to announce their proposals for reform.
Berry has ramped up criticism in recent weeks of the state’s justice system after the shooting deaths of a 4-year-old girl during a road rage dispute and an Albuquerque police officer wounded during a traffic stop. In both cases, the suspects have lengthy prior criminal records.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.