Dear Free People,
Yesterday, there was a Las Cruces Public Safety Meeting about vandalism, theft, homelessness, and drug issues. I attended this meeting and took detailed notes, so I am sharing those notes with you below in case you are interested.
JUNE 2 LAS CRUCES PUBLIC SAFETY MEETING NOTES
ABOUT THE MEETING
- This meeting was focused on theft, vandalism, homelessness, and drug issues in our community.
- The meeting was attended by 75+ concerned citizens from the community as well as City Councilors Kasandra Gandara and Tessa Abeyta, Las Cruces Police Chief Miguel Dominguez, Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart, and Executive Director of the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope Nicole Martinez.
- The meeting was organized by the Las Cruces Home Builders Association, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, and Las Cruces Association of Realtors.
- Many construction sites are being burglarized, resulting in home builders suffering great losses of equipment and building supplies. One builder reported having ~$300,000 in losses (the time period for this loss wasn’t clear).
- Many businesses are having their businesses vandalized, with broken windows, graffiti, etc. Business owners are suffering under these increased expenses, which are generally too low to be covered by insurance and must be paid out of pocket by the business owners.
- When they are caught, the perpetrators are generally being released from custody quickly due to NM’s bail reform Constitutional Amendment from 2016. This Constitutional Amendment calls for defendants who are not deemed to be flight risks or pose an imminent danger to the community to be able to be released from custody without posting bail.
- Some judges are known to be “catch-and-release” judges who consistently and quickly release perpetrators of crimes back onto the streets.
- Repeat offenders are prevalent. According to Chief Dominguez, the top 2 repeat offenders in Las Cruces have been arrested 14 and 10 times since January 2022.
- According to Chief Dominguez, assaults on police officers are up 42%. (It wasn’t clear what time period this was being compared to.)
- The Las Cruces Police Department is currently 31 officers short of full-staffing.
- The court system is overloaded with too many cases, which puts additional pressure on the judges to make hasty decisions.
- People living near homeless housing projects are suffering from increased problems as a result of homeless in the area. A woman from Pecos Street described that “the homeless follow each other” and now the people on her street are living under horrible circumstances, with homeless people in their front and back yards, defecating and urinating in their yards, trying to open their front doors at 2am, screaming at each other in the middle of the night, stealing security cameras, etc.The woman described that she cannot leave her property for any extended time (such as vacation) for fear of property damage or break-ins, her neighbors cannot let their children play outside, and her mother-in-law nearly ran over a homeless man who was lying on a mattress in the middle of the street this week.
PROPOSED SOLUTIONS AND THEIR RECEPTION BY THE PUBLIC
- City Councilor Gandara described many programs being developed and rolled out that are aimed at long-term reduction of poverty, substance abuse, and homelessness. These included:
- projects for the homeless with the Community of Hope
- Mano y Mano day labor program for the homeless
- new mobile crisis unit for mental health calls which includes social workers and EMTs (Call 9-8-8 instead of 9-1-1)
- Desert Hope homeless housing project
- Sierra affordable housing project
- Mobile Integrated Healthcare for responding to frequent 9-1-1 callers such as elderly
- Las Cruces Cares program for building positive community relationships with police
- Efforts to recruit and retain more police officers
- Concerned citizens pushed back against the City Councilor’s proposed solutions and were asking what is going to be done right now to solve the issues.
- People expressed concern over the solutions that are being proposed taking too long and also not targeting the repeat offenders who may not be open to improving their life circumstances.
- People expressed concern over the fact that there are no negative consequences for criminal behavior, and that it is “easy to be a criminal in Las Cruces.”
- People were also concerned about Las Cruces making it easy for people to be homeless, and thus attracting these individuals to our community.
- There seemed to be general consensus that NM’s bail reform from 2016 needs to be repealed so that perpetrators will actually have some deterrent to becoming repeat offenders.This can only be changed through the NM Legislature.
- According to an attorney in attendance, complaints about judges should be submitted to the Judicial Standards Commission.
- The Sheriff’s office recommended that home builders keep track of the serial numbers for all of their expensive equipment so that stolen items can be returned if they are recovered. They also recommended that the builders install inexpensive cameras at their job sites, and let the dispatcher know when they will be receiving expensive loads of materials so that officers can then patrol the areas at those times.
- Many community members who spoke were frustrated and upset over the current issues, and did not agree with the City Council’s approach to solving these problems.
- At the end of the meeting, the home builders called on people to attend the Las Cruces City Council meeting on Monday 6/6 to express their concerns.
I hope you find these meeting notes to be helpful in understanding more about what is happening in Las Cruces.
Local community involvement is key, as there are many important issues at stake right now. I know it is difficult to make time to get involved; I have two part-time jobs myself, and also homeschool my two children. Nonetheless, if we don’t get involved now, we will be leaving our kids with many entrenched problems.
Standing with you as we push to restore New Mexico,
Free People of the Southwest
NM Freedoms Alliance
National Coalition for Health Integrity