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Press Release

Readout from United States Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez’s Violent Crime Listening Session with Community Leaders in the International District

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, federal prosecutors, and other staff from the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) met with representatives from organizations that serving Albuquerque’s International District (ID) last week at the International District Library to discuss violent crime. John Bulten, Co-Executive Director of East Central Ministries, Sachi Watase, Executive Director of the New Mexico Asian Family Center (NMAFC), Khadijah Asili Bottom, the founder of Vizionz-Sankofa, and Will Williams, a community coordinator from Vizionz-Sankofa, presented statements. This listening session focused on violent crime, community-based solutions, and the relationship between law enforcement and the community. This was the first of a series of listening sessions to be held throughout the Albuquerque this summer.

United States Attorney Uballez opened the session by asking how the Department of Justice could support the ID in confronting violence. Participants described the link between violence and fentanyl trafficking, use, and addiction, and the need for additional resources in the ID—from funding community organizations to increasing law enforcement visibility. Others described a harrowing federal grant process that felt incongruous with the level to which federal law enforcement relies on their organizations. All participants emphasized the importance of building authentic relationships between law enforcement and the community.

John Bulten and Will Williams described how fentanyl changed the violent crime landscape. “I’ve seen how quickly and aggressively . . .  fentanyl took over and just it's deteriorating these people out here and it's causing a lot of the violence,” said Williams. “If fentanyl isn't made like a public health emergency,” Williams added, “everything we're talking about now is going to be ten times worse five years from now.”

Sachi Watase highlighted the importance of building trust in the Pan-Asian community. Following an arrest, she said, the “tension does not disappear.” Watase described how language barriers, a lack of cultural competency, and a reactive approach to enforcement stand in the way of authentic relationships with the Asian community in New Mexico. Watase also expressed frustration with the federal grant process. She described the heavy reliance of federal law enforcement on NMAFC for translation, intelligence, and community connection and contrasted it against the onerous process of seeking federal grants. “It is too much for us to constantly have to . . . go through a competitive process when we're the only ones who are doing this and [federal law enforcement] need us to do it.”  said Sachi Watase. “We know that these [federal law enforcement] entities trust us and that we're doing a good job because they're the ones who are asking us to do this.”

All participants stressed the importance of authentic investment in the ID. Khadijah Asili Bottom stated that, “[I]t'll take time . . . to get the trust of the community. So, I think that’s a cool thing to start having and being visible at community functions.” Williams complemented Albuquerque Community Safety’s Violence Intervention Program, describing community walks as a critical way to achieve a positive police presence and avoid over-policing.

This was the first in a series of listening sessions USA Uballez will convene in the coming months as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods Program. USA Uballez will meet with community leaders from the Westgate community, service providers for the unhoused, social justice advocates, addiction and treatment service providers, and families impacted by violent crime. These sessions are an opportunity for the USA, federal prosecutors, and USAO staff to recognize the vital role that these leaders, providers and advocates play in our community.

PSN is an evidence-based program proven effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. In New Mexico, the United States Attorney’s Office pursues a community violence intervention approach. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally-based intervention, prevention, and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

PSN programs are led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in collaboration with local public safety agencies and community organizations. The programs’ emphasis on community engagement, prevention and intervention measures, focused and strategic enforcement, and measurement and accountability has helped achieve overall reductions in violent crime, including gun homicides, in neighborhoods where PSN strategies have been implemented.

(left to right) AUSA Tom Aliberti, Sachi Watase, EAUSA Aja Brooks, Law Enforcement Coordinator Specialist Alyssa Skrepcinski, USA Uballez, FAUSA Holland Kastrin, AUSA Paul Mysliwiec, AUSA Kim Bell, AUSA David Hirsch, Khadijah Asili Bottom, Will Williams and AUSA Nora Williams.

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Updated June 26, 2023

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Press Release Number: 23-134