Homicides Up In ABQ But Fewer Cases Solved, Chief Justice Says Judiciary On "Life Support"

Jan 19, 2017

Homicides Up, Case Clearance Rate Down In AlbuquerqueThe Associated Press & KOAT 

Though the number of homicides in Albuquerque has increased, the number of cases solved by police has gone down.

KOAT-TV reports that Albuquerque Police saw 61 homicides in 2016, the most on record in 20 years, but the department's homicide clearance rate dropped to 65 percent.

APD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza says the department's homicide clearance rate had previously been around 80 percent for several years.

Espinoza says the department is close to closing multiple homicide cases from 2016.

Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Shaun Willoughby says the drop in case clearance is in part because of an ongoing officer shortage within the department. Right now, only 846 officers are on the force when the department is budgeted for 1,000.

Chief Justice Says Low Funding Threatens CourtsThe Associated Press 

The chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court says funding cuts to the judiciary are threatening the constitutional rights to a speedy trial and along with basic court services.

Chief Justice Charles Daniels addressed a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday. He described a judiciary that is "on life support" and said emergency funding is needed in the coming months for state courts to avoid furloughs and meet obligations to compensate jurors and witnesses.

More county clerks are cutting back on hours they devote to helping the public. Funding to the judiciary was cut in the current fiscal year as lawmakers struggled to fill a budget hole.

Albuquerque Public Schools Looks To Trim BudgetThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal 

Albuquerque Public Schools is looking for ways to trim its budget in light of possible cuts to state funding.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the APS board is anticipating an additional $7 million to $12 million reduction for the current fiscal year that could be finalized by lawmakers during the legislative session.

Chief Finance Officer Tami Coleman sent a document to board members identifying cost-cutting measures that include layoffs, shortening the academic year and scheduling some four-day weeks across the district.

APS is waiting for final budget figures from state lawmakers, who are dealing with a $69 million deficit for the current fiscal year. The deficit is largely due to declining oil and gas revenue, with another deficit looming for the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

Albuquerque To Conduct Feasibility Study For Soccer StadiumThe Associated Press & KOV 

Albuquerque is going to study the feasibility of having a 10,000-seat stadium for a men's professional soccer team.

A resolution approved by the City Council and signed by Mayor Richard Berry approves spending $15,000 on the feasibility study.

According to city officials, the Albuquerque Sol Football Club needs to own or be primary tenant of a 10,000-seat stadium to seek entry into the United Soccer League.

The team now belongs to a development league.

The council's resolution says the popularity of soccer in Albuquerque has increased in recent years and that construction of a professional soccer stadium would provide economic development opportunities.

Councilor Dan Lewis told KOV-TV  last month that private investment and interest by businesses are needed to make the project work.

NEA President To Visit Southern New Mexico SchoolAssociated Press

The president of the National Education Association is coming to southern New Mexico to help launch a new "community school."

Lily Eskelsen Garcia is scheduled to visit Lynn Middle School in Las Cruces on Thursday to celebrate the opening a school the union says is a multipurpose center.

Community schools are usually jointly operated through a partnership between the school and at least one lead community agency.

The union president is slated to attend a student rally and speak at a presentation.

Garcia became the union's first Latina president after she was elected in 2014.

New Mexico Considers Automated Voter RegistrationAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are proposing a change to the state constitution that would automatically provide voter registration through driver's license records unless individuals chose not to participate.

Several Democratic lawmakers and the state's top elections regulator announced the proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday at the state Capitol.

New Mexico currently provides voter registration services at Motor Vehicle Division offices, placing the onus on individuals to fill out an additional form.

Sponsors of the proposed amendment say it would shift that obligation from the individual to government.

Approval by a majority of legislators would send the measure to a public referendum in 2018, with or without the consent of GOP Gov. Susana Martinez.

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said the changes also could improve the accuracy of voter rolls.

Wildlife Group Gathers Petition Signatures Over Gila ProjectAssociated Press

An Albuquerque-based wildlife group has gathered hundreds of petition signatures in support of halting plans to develop New Mexico's share of the Gila River.

The New Mexico Wildlife Federation is delivering the petition signatures to Gov. Susana Martinez's office on Thursday. The group contends the project would be a burden on taxpayers and lead to environmental damage.

Under the Arizona Water Settlements Act, New Mexico is entitled to about 14,000 acre-feet of water a year from the river, or about 4.5 billion gallons.

There has been much debate and legal wrangling in recent years over multimillion-dollar diversion proposals.

Federal officials at one point estimated that the cost of a major diversion could reach $1 billion. State and local officials last summer opted to pursue at least two smaller-scale alternatives.

Lawsuit: New Mexico Not Investigating 'Wage Theft' ClaimsAssociated Press

A new lawsuit says the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions isn't investigating claims of "wage theft."

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Santa Fe District Court on behalf of four workers and various advocacy groups says the agency is refusing to look into claims and doesn't hold employers liable for wage violations

In addition, court documents accuse the Department of Workforce Solutions of not investigating or taking any enforcement action on wage claims that go back more than one year.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to require the agency to enforce state law and investigate theft claims.

Department of Workforce Solutions Joy Forehand says she had not seen the lawsuit.

Fort Sill Accuses Gambling Panel Of Shirking Court OrderAssociated Press

An Oklahoma-based American Indian tribe is accusing the National Indian Gaming Commission of shirking a federal court order to reconsider an earlier decision that prohibited the tribe from conducting gambling on its land in southern New Mexico.

Attorneys for the Fort Sill Apache filed a motion Tuesday, calling for the commission to be held in contempt.

A previous order required the commission to reconsider its 2015 decision as part of a settlement process after receiving an opinion from the U.S. Interior Department on the tribe's eligibility to conduct gaming at Akela Flats, New Mexico.

The commission notified the tribe last week there were no grounds for reconsideration. The commission did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Fort Sill Chairman Jeff Haozous says the commission is violating the tribe's right to a speedy resolution of the gaming dispute.

Teen Killed After Fleeing Car Thieves Hit Her CarAlbuquerque Journal

Two suspects remain at large after they fled from police in a stolen van and later ran a stop sign, smashing into a car and killing a teenage girl.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the girl’s mother is in critical condition and a young boy was not seriously hurt.

Albuquerque police have not identified the victims. A man and woman in the van ran from the crash, which took place in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. 

Police told the Journal they pursued the van initially after it was reported stolen and tried to pull it over, but the driver sped away and they did not follow. Suspects fleeing police must present a clear danger and ongoing threat of great bodily harm, or commit a violent felony, for officers to engage in pursuit.

The crash happened after this encounter.