Albuquerque lawmakers seek to reform justice system

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – In the wake of recent tragedy, state lawmakers and local law enforcement agree it’s time to take action. Democrats and Republicans announced Thursday, they want to work together to reform repeat offender laws.

“I think you’re going to see 2015 as the year where violent crime has been on the rise in New Mexico, and in Albuquerque,” said Albuquerque Mayor, Richard J. Berry.

It’s a problem that really came to light with the shooting of three police officers and a little girl this year. Mayor Berry held a news conference Thursday afternoon to announce what he’d like to see done about it.

Berry said republican and democratic legislators shouldn’t wait any longer to keep career criminals from striking again.

“We have to find ways to make New Mexico a better place to be a mom and a dad and a business owner and a kid and the worst place to be a criminal, especially a repeat offender,” he said.

Anger has grown since the road rage shooting of 4-year-old Lilly Garcia. Then, the murder of Officer Daniel Webster. Both suspects are men who have been in and out of the justice system.

“It’s become clear over the course of this fall and the summer that our protectors need protection,” said Republican Representative Nate Gentry.

Gentry, along with Republican Representative Paul Pacheco said they want officers protected under the hate crime statute, meaning more jail time for anyone who hurts a cop.

They also call for a constitutional amendment to allow judges to deny bail until trial for dangerous criminals.

Pacheco brought up the three strikes law in New Mexico. He said it’s weak and wants to add more violent crimes to that law.

“We crafted a bill that directly targets violent offenders,” said Pacheco.

Democrats made their own announcement. “I think we are facing a lack of leadership in this city, and that lack of leadership is costing lives,” said Democratic Senator, Daniel Ivey-Soto.

Ivey-Soto, along with Democratic Senators Michael Padilla and Gerald Ortiz Y Pino, said Mayor Berry is part of the problem. They called for better paid police, fire and correction officers, and argued more jail time isn’t always the answer.

“It costs us $40,000 a year to keep somebody locked up,” said Ortiz Y Pino. “I’m not sure that’s the best use of state money when we don’t have enough to pay for roads and basic education services.”

“We’d seek fully funding mental health treatment options here in the city of Albuquerque,” said Senator Padilla.

Both sides do agree, they’ll need to work together for real change.

Democrat and Republican lawmakers said this will be a top priority during the next legislative session in January.

“We want to make it clear that we are 100 percent open to discussion to working with this administration to find solutions,” Padilla said.

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