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Press Release

Readout from United States Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez’s Violent Crime Listening Session with Social Justice Advocates

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, and his staff met with social justice advocates on August 1 at the Main Public Library to discuss violent crime. Baruch Campos, Program Director for Together for Brothers, Starlyn Brown and Karen Douglas from the League of Women Voters of Central New Mexico, and Jack Champagne, Program and Legal Director from the New Mexico Black Leadership Council, presented statements. This was the fourth listening session held with community members this summer.

United States Attorney Uballez opened the session by explaining that the Attorney General directed United States Attorney’s Offices to focus on addressing violent crime through intervention and outreach efforts. Participants described how crime at bus stops and on buses reflects a larger issue with guns, drugs and violent crime in Albuquerque. Others described how the negative perception of the city and law enforcement in the community and the media, whether accurate or inaccurate, produces an amount of fear and divisiveness which is disproportionate to the actual circumstances in the city. Participants agreed that Albuquerque Community Services (ACS) needed more support and resources so that they could expand their scope of work.

Speaking to the challenges facing local organizations who work with the unhoused population to address drugs and violence, Baruch Campos said “we’ve tried working with organizations like HopeWorks and organizations that specialize in [the unhoused population]. The issues there when we tried to do that, they’re just so overwhelmed. There’s a lot, there’s a huge population that is in need. When I think about that, it’s just like what is our city doing to support either those organizations doing that work or to support people directly?”

Jack Champagne agreed, saying “a lot of them are closing down too. I’ve noticed as we’ve kind of gotten on the tail end of COVID funding they just haven’t had any additional support and so they just couldn’t keep the doors open. So now we’re dealing with less of these organizations doing work and the remaining organizations are getting even more that they have to do.”

When asked what concerns participants have about safety and violence in the community, Starlyn Brown and Karen Douglas agreed that gun violence was a general concern, especially the increase in gun violence amongst youth. One participant shared that their family had been directly affected by gun violence and that the case remains unsolved, leaving the family without answers or closure.

When asked what issues the participants see that cause the divide between law enforcement and the community, Champagne observed “my perception of [APD] is that they’re kind of in a bit of a double bind in the sense that they are perceived as both over policing and under policing…. they’re responses are perceived as heavy-handed and occasionally they’re seen as not responding at all.” Champagne continued, “its very easy for a direct response to spiral out of control, especially if we are dealing with new police officers or police officers in a new community or police officers in a community that is not their own... we don’t have a ton police who know what it’s like to live in the [International] District for instance, so it’s very difficult for them to understand what an appropriate response is.”

“…we expected too much of APD.” Brown agreed. “It’s kind of like in the school system where the teachers are babysitters, they’re councilors, they have to, you know, deal with the parents.”

On August 18, 2023, USA Uballez, together with ACS and the Mayor’s Office, announced that the Department of Justice awarded a $2,050,000.00 grant to the Albuquerque Community Safety Department and its Violence Intervention Program. ACS and VIP will use the discretionary earmark funding to expand the scope of their programs. This will enhance service in violence prevention, intervention, and support within Albuquerque. In addition to the expansion of the existing work, this funding can help with exploring the establishment of an Office of Violence Prevention for the City of Albuquerque.

USA Uballez convened this listening session as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program. USA Uballez previously met with representatives from organizations that serve Albuquerque’s International District, community providers who serve the unhoused population, and addiction and treatment service providers. These sessions were an opportunity for the USA and his 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 program’s 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.

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Updated August 23, 2023

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Press Release Number: 23-196