AG Torrez details his public safety priorities for special session

May 16—Some 75% of violent crimes in New Mexico remain unsolved, according to state Attorney General Raúl Torrez, citing recent FBI data.

With the Legislature being called into a special session on July 18 on public safety, Torrez is asking the governor to seek funding for rapid DNA analysis machines to help law enforcement solve more crimes.

"I think, quite frankly, our constituents, citizens and families that we are trying to serve and protect are tired," Torrez said at a news conference Thursday. "We are tired of, every year, year after year, living in a community that cannot provide the basic public safety we are all entitled to."

He noted recent national reports that put New Mexico as the most violent and dangerous state in the country.

"But this is something that we have the power to change, the power to control, and we can choose a different direction," Torrez said. "We just have to have real focus and determination on the part of leaders in Santa Fe."

Torrez appeared with the mother of a murder victim, a longtime victim's rights advocate, and Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe to announce his request of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to add three public safety recommendations on the agenda for the special session, which is expected to last up to three days.

Torrez said the "discrete" priorities — to bolster law enforcement capabilities, advocate for crime victims and shed light on the pretrial services system — would likely have bipartisan support and could be acted upon within the time limits of the short session.

Torrez said that given the current backlog at the state laboratory, it can take months, up to a year sometimes, for law enforcement to get the results from DNA tests on suspects.

Hebbe said sometimes Farmington police have to go to private labs for such DNA testing, and that the purchase of rapid DNA machines could help smaller law enforcement agencies, and help in a regional approach to crime fighting.

Torrez said more transparency is needed in the workings of pretrial service programs in the state. So he is asking the Legislature to ensure public access to records related to pretrial conditons imposed and defendants' compliance.

The third priority would create an office of the Crime Victim Advocate to ensure the rights of victims are protected.

"Unfortunately, these rights are not protected as vigorously as are the rights of criminal defendants." The office would investigate crime victim complaints, and ensure court proceedings comply with the state Constitution and the Victims of Crime Act