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Las Cruces Police Department discusses crime reduction initiatives

Interim Chief of Police Jeremy Story at a community meeting hosted at Las Cruces City Hall.
Jonny Coker
LCPD Chief of Police Jeremy Story at a community meeting hosted at Las Cruces City Hall in October of 2023.

On Thursday, the Las Cruces Police Department held a town hall meeting to give updates on the current crime statistics within the city, and to talk about new strategies to address public safety.

According to statistics released by the Las Cruces Police Department, between January and March of this year, there was a 58% increase in violent crime compared to the same time period last year, while overall property crime decreased by 9%.

At the town hall, Las Cruces Police Chief Jeremy Story gave an overview of ordinances that he plans on presenting to the Las Cruces City Council. The ordinances focus on solicitation, as well as reining in the number of shopping carts stolen from businesses.

“When we talk about the solicitation ordinances we already have, the purpose, what we’re trying to accomplish by updating them is really two things: Remove potentially unconstitutional language, and narrow the focus to a public safety interest.”

The updated solicitation ordinance would include prohibiting unwanted solicitation on private property as indicated by the property owner, and any solicitation that would cause an individual to step onto a roadway that’s not designated for pedestrian traffic.

Chief Story also talked about the introduction of a shopping cart ordinance, which, on top of prohibiting theft and abandonment of carts, would require businesses to affix an identifying sign on their carts, as well as requiring them to retrieve carts within three days of being notified that they’ve been abandoned.

“The act of having a shopping cart is not going to result in somebody going to jail, nor is solicitation. But if enforcement action is taken through a criminal citation or a summons, and they get plugged into municipal court, it is an opportunity, hopefully, to get them treatment, whether it’s substance use, mental illness, or both.”

Story said that while he hopes these ordinances will help with crime in the city, the issues of bail reform and competency need to be addressed by state legislators.

“The ordinances we’re asking for are just tools. Are they going to radically shift the dynamic? Probably not. We’re just trying to move the needle in the right direction. The biggest issues we’re facing are at the state level,” he said. “There’s a special session coming up in July to hopefully address these issues. So now’s a good time, between now and July, to really make your voices heard about what you want to see happen in the state.”

At the town hall, Gerald Byers, who currently serves as the District Attorney for the Third Judicial District in Doña Ana County, said that so far this year, 72% of pretrial detention motions filed by his office were denied.

“I don’t believe that anybody should be languishing in jail pending trial if they are not a danger to the community,” Attorney Byers said. “But what we have seen time and time again is that because of the way that the rule has been implemented, and frankly must be implemented by the courts, as a result, a number of individuals who go out and repeatedly offend [and] re-offend have been released.”

Byers said that despite the current legal landscape in New Mexico, he’s pleased with the collaboration between his office and the LCPD.

On top of introducing updated ordinances, the LCPD is in the midst of implementing a Real Time Crime Center (RTCC). LCPD Lieutenant Peter Bradley said he is aware of privacy concerns of the RTCC which would use live video feeds, license plate readers, and other technology to aid law enforcement respond to criminal activity.

“We’re not looking at hiding cameras or anything. We’re looking at putting bright things that are out that show people that police are watching. We’re here. We’re trying to pay attention to these areas and we’re trying to help these communities.”

Chief Story said the department is implementing all these strategies simultaneously in an effort address crime of all types across the city.

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University.