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“This place is not what it was before,” local business owner Randy McMillan said during public input at the Dec. 19 Las Cruces City Council meeting. “It is becoming a war zone.”
At the meeting, Mayor Ken Miyagishima recognized McMillan and Chris Allen of Las Cruces for saving a man who was attacked by two men with a baseball bat earlier this month near the intersection of Picacho Avenue and 17th Street.
“The two guys that did that, they’re out on the streets right now,” McMillan said at the meeting.
As a result, McMillan said he now sleeps “with a .40 pistol under my pillow because they threatened me over and over and over. They have my license number on my truck.
“This bail reform nonsense is absolute destruction and it is releasing these criminals into our communities,” McMillan said. (In 2016, more than 87 percent of New Mexico voters approved a constitutional amendment granting pretrial release to defendants who are not considered a threat but remain jailed because they cannot afford to post bail.)
McMillan said he had a list of 10 criminal acts that have affected him individually and as the owner of a property management company in the past year, including thefts, office break-ins and criminal damage to property.
“You all asked us to vote for you, to put you in charge of leading this community,” McMillan told the city council. “You have connections in Santa Fe. These people in Santa Fe have put these laws into place. I want to know what you are going to do about fixing this. What I’m going to do is I’m going to carry a gun from this point on. I don’t like to have to do that. But that’s what I’m going to do to protect myself and my family because I have to.”
State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, a Las Cruces attorney who is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the 2016 amendment gives “a higher priority to civil liberties at the expense of public safety.”
“Look at the title of the amendment,” Cervantes told the Bulletin. (The title is “Proposing an amendment … to protect community safety by granting courts new authority to deny release on bail pending trail for dangerous defendants in felony cases while retaining the right to pretrial release for non-dangerous defendants who do not pose a flight risk.”)
“The suggested purpose of the amendment was to “incarcerate dangerous individuals,” Cervantes said, but that has not been “the most consequential outcome.”
The legislature will continue to “have a role” in bail reform, Cervantes said, but it likely will require another constitutional amendment approved by voters to change the 2016 amendment.
“I have had a chance to visit with the mayor several times and I know he’s very concerned,” Cervantes said. “There is increasing lawlessness in Las Cruces; the statistics bear that out. We’re seeing Las Cruces changing in front of our eyes and I think a lot of us are very concerned about that. We want to assure we don’t slip into the reputation and challenges that Albuquerque has been unable to tackle. It cannot be challenged that people feel less safe in Las Cruces than they were before.
“As a property owner, I can tell you that with other property owners I speak with it is a very large challenge these days to address the destruction of our property and the cleanup and maintenance required by a hands-off approach,” Cervantes said. “It seems increasingly the government is leaving it up to property owners to fend for themselves.”
McMillan was one of about a half-dozen people who spoke about crime in Las Cruces during the council meeting.
“We’re going to reach out to the DA (Third Judicial District Attorney Gerald Byers of Las Cruces),” Miyagishima said at the meeting. “There may be some more options, we might be able to give a little bit more teeth, which would be welcome. That would be great.”