Chief: Violent crime down in Las Cruces
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
Violent crime is down in Las Cruces and the police department continues to improve its connection with the community to keep it down, Police Chief Jaime Montoya and Deputy Police Chief Miguel Dominguez told the Las Cruces City Council at a portion of their Monday, July 25 work session that focused on building a safer Las Cruces.
Montoya said violent crime in Las Cruces was 9 percent below the national average in 2015 and 11 percent below it in 2014. Property crimes fueled by drug use and people leaving home, business and vehicle doors unlocked, continue to be a serious concern in Las Cruces.
Random mass shootings, he said, are “hard to predict in our society” and almost impossible for any police department to prevent.
Montoya said he “would love to have more officers,” but noted LCPD has recently added nine additional officers for community policing thanks to a $1.125 million grant from the United States Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
The council work session, he said, “was a great opportunity to explain and elaborate to the council and the public some of the programs and efforts we are committed to in order to enhance our relationships with the community we serve. We acknowledge that not all our efforts may be met with support but we are dedicated to our mission of helping all our citizens of Las Cruces.”
Joining Montoya and Dominguez at the meeting were LCPD Lt. Joy Mickendrow, who oversees the department’s Professional Standards Unit; Sgt. Eric Urenda, director of the LCPD Training Academy; Community Liaison Officer Aaron Glymph; and LCPS West Area Commander and Deputy Chief Justin Dunivan.
“It’s everybody’s job to keep the community safe,” Dominguez said.
In a PowerPoint presentation to the council, he detailed a number of LCPD programs through which the department works closely with the community, shares information and provides enhanced training to its officers.
Dominguez said the New Mexico Fusion Center based in Albuquerque, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, provides LCPD with updated crime information. He said LCPD is also part of the federal Office of Emergency Management’s Law Enforcement Planning Committee. And, Dominguez said, LCPD officials meet regularly with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to share information and coordinate training.
The deputy chief said LCPD officers are also receiving more training than ever, including 22 weeks in the academy; as well as 44 additional hours of crisis intervention training to help them deal with the mentally ill and individuals in emotional crisis; critical incidence training to help them deal with civil disorder, natural and man-made disasters, hostage and barricaded- subjects situations, bomb threat and active shooters; firearms tactical training; legal training, including search and seizure, reasonable suspicion and probable cause; and training in investigative techniques.
Dominguez said LCPD officers join Las Cruces firefighters for rescue training that includes “cutting edge technology and tactics.”
He said the department also works with local schools and churches and with the occupants of public buildings to create emergency action plans.
Dominguez said LCPD received 146,984 calls for service in 2015, and 76,101 calls from January to June 2016. He said the department generated 29,864 incident reports in 2015 and 14,838 reports from January to June 2016.
One of the department’s goals, Dominguez said, is to increase online reporting of non-emergency crime. In the first six months of this year, he said, 155 incident reports were handled online, saving the department almost $8,000. More than 1,000 other reports received during that same timeframe could have been dealt with online, he said.
Dominguez said LCPD officers continue to work proactively to reduce crime by regularly checking to make sure businesses’ doors are locked at night. He said the LCPD Mobile Operations Command Center also takes a mobile unit to locations throughout the city on a regular basis so officers can meet with local residents and hear local concerns.
He said the department is working with the Las Cruces Retail Assets Protection Association to reduce crimes like shoplifting and larceny, and the LCPD also works with other city departments and local faithbased and civic organizations to prevent crime. Dominguez said officers regularly participate in local Neighborhood Watch meetings, National Night Out, the Emergency Services Expo, Las Cruces Public Schools’ Safe Routes to Schools program and the Crime Victims Walk, which LCPD sponsored in April.
The department, Dominguez said, also does community outreach through the Youth Leadership Camp it sponsors along with the city and New Mexico State University, its Coffee with a Cop program, safety presentations officers do for senior-citizen and day care centers, its ride-along program and through presentations to local schools about safety, anti-bullying and other issues.
He said officers also regularly participate in the Las Cruces Habitat for Humanity program, the Lot Rejuvenation Program (officers help the elderly and handicapped clean up vacant lots), animal awareness programs that help children learn how to care for their pets, the Las Cruces Public Schools EXCEL career and technical education program and the Ident-a-Child program.
Montoya participated in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing briefing at the White House last week, and said LCPD is already focusing on many of the topics outlined in the task force’s six pillars of policing in the modern world, which include trust and legitimacy, policy and oversight, technology and social media, community policing and crime reduction, training and education and officer wellness and safety.
“We have no idea how much the police department does in the community,” said City Councillor Ceil Levatino. “I think we can better let the public know all the things our police department is doing,” said Levatino, who said she is “so impressed with how well officers work with the community.”
Councillor Jack Eakman urged police officers to “take care of yourselves mentally, physically and spiritually. That will be doing us a great service,” he said.
“We want Las Cruces to be known as a safe community both for the people who live here and our officers,” said Mayor Pro Tem Greg Smith. Smith chaired the July 25 work session in the absence of Mayor Ken Miyagishima, who was out of town. “I’m feeling very confident that we’re in a safe place,” he said.
‘We want Las Cruces to be known as a safe community both for the people who live here and our officers.’
Las Cruces Mayor Pro Tem