Additional comments about an increase in thefts and property damage in Las Cruces
Here are comments from people speaking at the June 2 Las Cruces Home Builders Association (LCHBA) meeting and the June 6 Las Cruces City Council work session.
• “People who are breaking the law should be punished… regardless of demographics,” said Las Cruces homebuilder Mike Fraembs of Arista Development. Theft and vandalism contribute to price increases for new homes, he said. “We all have to join together and support each other,” Fraembs said.
• “I’m angry and I’m tired of writing these checks,” said Billie Haynie, president of the Las Cruces Association of Realtors Board of Directors. Thefts and vandalism are being committed by “the people who want to be on the street and break the law,” she said. State legislators should be called on to change state law regarding bail. “Get these criminals behind bars,” Haynie said.
• Bail reform is necessary, said attorney Jill Johnson. “The court is overrun,” she said. “They judges are struggling. They are overrun. Judges are in a box set up by legislators,” Johnson said. “We need to start talking to our legislators.”
• The city needs more “licensed facilities that can house people like this,” said court-appointed guardian Ruben Sanchez. The city needs “increased access to mental health services,” he said.
• Nothing is being done about “the theft and vandalism happening throughout our city,” said business owner Gina Ortega.
• There are constant break-ins, tagging, damage to vehicles, littering and fights among homeless people on property near the intersection of Solano Drive and Idaho Avenue, said a Las Cruces business owner speaking at the LCHBA forum. The speaker said she has called central dispatch to report incidents and “it takes them hours to show up. We live it every single day. Customers don’t want to get out of their vehicles.”
• Voters need to keep a “scorecard on judges,” said a woman speaking at the meeting. “We have to see who’s releasing them,” then we don’t vote for them,” she said.
• “It’s easy to be a criminal in Las Cruces,” said a man speaking at the forum.
• “We call law enforcement and no one protects us,” said a Las Cruces homeowner speaking at the LCHBA meeting who said she was not a business owner. “We matter too,” she said. “What do I do? Who do I talk to? Cameras are not going to keep us safe,” she said. “We put up cameras and our cameras were stolen.”
• Rob Cunningham, speaking at the work session, said the city should create a compassion fund for business owners who have suffered criminal damage to their property or theft.
• “I think the police department responds,” builder John Strain said at the work session. “It’s hard to do business this way. I understand this is a legislative problem. We will travel to Santa Fe. If there is no consequence for their crime, there will be no end to their crime.”
• Las Cruces Realtor Angela Potter said more than $7,000 in damage has been done to various properties managed by her company, which also has lost rental income. “I’m tired of the city giving the public lip services,” Potter said. She said the city should provide monetary compensation for damage done “by those who were caught and released.”
• City Manager Ifo Pili said there is “no policy that is handcuffing me or (the) police.” The 2016 Bail Reform Act, “that’s what’s handcuffing our police department,” Pili said at the work session. It’s important “to separate the conversations of crime and homelessness,” Pili said. “They’re two different issues. Experts are working on the homelessness issue. When we talk about crime, LCPD is ramping up, identifying repeat offenders.” Pili said four repeat offenders have been identified as having received 77 criminal citations in the past year.
• “Frankly, I’m hearing a lot of politics,” City Councilor Johana Bencomo said at the work session. “That’s frustrating. This is a complex issue that requires complex solutions. We are dealing with human beings. None of you have reached out to me,” Bencomo said. “I want to talk to you all; if you have solutions, I want to hear them. This is about homelessness. This is about crime. This is about mental health. This requires a multi-pronged approach.”
• Marisol Diaz said she lives on Pecos Street, the same street where the city’s Desert Hope Apartments, opened in 2021 to provide housing to people struggling with homelessness, are located. Diaz said she delivered a petition to the city with the signatures of 150 “immediate neighbors who are demanding that you act and prevent further expansion of this program.” She invited the city council “to hold a public meeting at the corner of Idaho and Pecos Street” to see the “horrible conditions at this facility.”
• City Councilor Becki Graham, speaking at the work session, said Desert Hope Apartments are in the district she represents. There is a call “to see less unhoused people in the street,” Graham said, but “people are also pushing against housing. That leaves us with no solution. I am interested to meeting with you individually or invite me to your group. I am here to entertain solutions.” Graham said some of the crimes being discussed are not being committed by homeless people. “I’m going to keep calling for compassion,” she said. “I am going to keep practicing compassion. I invite you to do the same.” Graham said two-thirds of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and many are “a couple of paychecks away from the situation that we’re describing.”
• “We came here just to talk about the crime,” Las Cruces Home Builders Association Executive Officer Nicole Black said at the work session. “We’re not here to attack homelessness. We support Community of Hope in our association,” which she said is in partnership with the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce and the Las Cruces Association of Realtors.
To read SJR1, the Bail Reform Act of 2016, visit www.nmlegis.gov. Click on “legislation” and “legislation by key word.” Under Sessions or Years, click on “2016 Regular” in both boxes. In the Enter Search Keyword, type in “Bail Reform Act.” Then click “Search.”