Community leaders hold meeting on child safety following Victoria Marten’s death

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The brutality of Victoria Martens’ murder sent a shock wave through the state. Tuesday, city and county leaders held a special meeting to address child safety. Even veteran judges and law enforcement called it the worst they’ve ever seen.

The public, representatives from the police department, schools and CYFD outlined programs that already exist and discussed what more can be done.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department was the first to raise the issue but they weren’t the last.

“When it comes to child abuse there should be no boundaries,” said Sgt. Amy Dudewicz with BCSO. “We’re not just a poor state. We’re extremely impoverished and I think sadly sometimes money seems to be one of the biggest cures for our ills.”

Community leaders talked about funding to improve drug treatment, mental health services and child abuse prevention, following the disturbing murder of 10-year-old Victoria last week.

“I cannot speak to this particular case if there were any indicators we could’ve picked up but yes can we do a better job as a community absolutely,” said Deputy Chief Eric Garcia with the Albuquerque Police Department.

The Mayor’s Office points to a task force created two years ago after Omaree Varela’s mother was accused of kicking her 9-year-old son to death. “It’s incredibly great that we have policy leaders coming together to have this discussion but we don’t want to forget the work that’s already been done,” added Gilbert Montano with the Mayor’s Office.

Money went toward hiring one part-time and two full-time child abuse liaisons to work with law enforcement in providing services to families in need but the city says they see up to 1,300 cases a month and it’s asking for four more liaisons.

The Mayor’s Office estimates the city pours about $30 million each year into child protection programs and resources.

Similarly, Albuquerque Public Schools says it has counselors to work with students and families on substance abuse issues but not enough.

There are nine social workers in the district who can work with students who are not in the special education program. “That’s not enough,” said Kristine Meurer with APS.

The discussion lasted for about three hours after hearing ideas from the community and local agencies about what might help. Now city and county leaders have to go back and figure out how to make that happen.

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