Albuquerque asks state for millions to help stop violent crime

By: - September 13, 2021 3:13 pm
Photo of Albuquerque police car

The city of Albuquerque is asking for state funding to expand its Violence Intervention Program. (Photo by Shelby Kleinhans for Source NM)

The city of Albuquerque is asking New Mexico lawmakers for $10 million to expand its Violence Intervention Program.

The program, started in March 2020, identifies people who are at the highest risk of being involved in “the current cycles of gun violence,” then employs peer support workers to offer “an exit from the dangerous life they are leading,” Program Manager Gerri Bachicha told lawmakers. She said if those people continue to commit violent crimes, they turn them over to Albuquerque police.

The program has one social services coordinator on staff and is working to hire another through a contract, Bachicha said, and they need more. The money from the Legislature would create a fund meant to sustain a reduction in violent crime across the state.

“It’s time to scale this work,” she told the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee on Monday, Sept. 13. “Historically, law enforcement strategies to reduce violent assaults and gun violence have not created a sustained reduction in violent crime in New Mexico. And even worse, the strategies employed have often eroded the legitimacy of the police force to protect and serve in the communities most impacted by violent crime.”

She said reducing violent crime must include public health strategies that focus on the social determinants of health.

Luke Languit, a commander with the Albuquerque Police Department, told lawmakers that the program is “really looking at the root problem, identifying the root causes of what the issues are, in this particular case, violent crime, gun violence.”

“It’s important for us to realize as law enforcement, we can’t just arrest our way out of this problem, that we have to work with the community, we have to work with nonprofits, businesses, community members, as far as addressing the root causes of these crimes,” Languit said. “And if we can help, whether if it’s quality of living, whether if it’s mental health issues, whether if it’s substance abuse, if we can provide resources, in the long run, as a law enforcement officer, it’s actually going to reduce our caseload when it comes to violent crime.”

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.