Officials focus on violent crime - Cibola Beacon: News

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Officials focus on violent crime

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Posted: Friday, May 18, 2012 12:00 am

GRANTS –Violent crime has been on the rise in the Cibola County, resulting in the deaths of Weston Cohoe, John Rains, Jose Rivera and William FVilrohlich.

There have been several other beatings such as the most recent, allegedly between Troy Elkins and James Latham, also known as Bruce, and Brad Latham, that did not result in death, but was also a violent crime.

Public safety personnel and some elected officials in the county met last week to discuss the problem since it has become a hot topic within the community.

Represented at the meeting were administrators from the City of Grants and the county, police officers, 13th Judicial District Attorney staff members and counseling agency staff. Sheriff Johnny Valdez hosted the meeting per the request of county Commissioner Antonio “Tony” Gallegos.

“Reality is, violent crime has risen,” Sheriff Johnny Valdez said as he opened the meeting. “This is our community, this is a start and we are here to combat crime.”

Two students from NMSU, who are majoring in social work, presented the group with a recent video assignment of theirs named “disaster within your community.” Darlene Barela and Tehnijah Jake chose to do the assignment because they noticed the rise in violent crime.

The students noted several key factors they felt might help a community fight violent crime, one being multidisciplinary team. Cibola County’s team recently dwindled to nothing. Kristina Faught-Hollar, a representative at the meeting from the district attorney’s office, pointed out, “Many of the people on the board became burnt out. The team was no longer a priority of the leaders involved.”

However, Barela and Jakes suggested the team is needed. “We need to find committed people for the team,” said Jakes. They also pointed out that the battle starts at an early of age, “In the schools and at home,” said Jakes. They explained that signs of future violent offenders are cruelty to animals and bullying.

Undersheriff Tony Mace said he and the sheriff are implementing an anti-bullying program at the schools that will be in full effect in the next school year. “And this is no cheap program,” said Mace. “We will have some celebrities come to Grants to kick it off. The program also demands that teachers are trained. There have been good results nationwide.”

“Lastly, we need to view ourselves as one,” Barela told the group. “We need to work together, communicate and fight crime.”

Following the video presentation, the discussion among the leaders was directed toward police pay, courts and community policing.

Police pay in Grants and Milan is poor, to say the least, according to representatives from GPD and the sheriff’s department. New Grants City Councilor Ruben Sandoval asked the chiefs of police at the meeting why they do not pursue drug investigations. Grants’ chief Steve Sena answered, “Because of manpower. We are short of officers.”

Lt. Maxine Spidle, a veteran officer, explained that in 2002, GPD had a narcotics team. “Today, we are lucky to have enough people for regular patrol. If we had a narcotics team and a cop in the schools, it would help.”

Grants Chief of Police Steve Sena added, “The few officers we have are here because they have ties, not because of pay.”

Currently, Grants, Milan and State Police Departments all have substantially reduced staffs. One chief complained that this is a mean cycle. He said, “We train them, spend six months getting them certified, and then, when they are certified, they go for more pay elsewhere.”

Grants officers start at $11.25 uncertified and $13.25 certified. Milan is $10.50 uncertified and $13.25 certified and the sheriff’s department at $11.55 certified and $10.50 uncertified.

Cibola County Manager Scott Vinson, changed the direction of the meeting when he said, “You want to know part of the problem, where are the judges? The Detention Center is not a turn cycle. Ask the judges what their sentencing patterns are? If you are really concerned, start sitting in sentencing sessions at the courts.”

Deputy Steve Chavez said, “I’ve learned that people will commit crimes in a community to the limit they are allowed. They will push it to the limit.”

Pointed out at the meeting, was recent public record from the Beacon’s Cops and Crime page. A man was convicted for his third DWI and was only sentenced to 180 days in jail of which 90 days were suspended and 274 days supervised probation.

“The whole system is flawed,” Vinson added. “The DA’s office is also overwhelmed.”

“It is a vicious cycle,” said Village of Milan Trustee Ellen Baca. “Like the students said, we need to work together.”

Sheriff Valdez closed the meeting stating that there would be another session soon. “These meetings are not trustee, council or commission meetings. These meetings are community meetings to combat crime,” he said.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • jlove posted at 12:34 pm on Fri, May 18, 2012.

    jlove Posts: 7

    The system as a whole is not working in Grants. There has been such a rise in VIOLENT crime and no one seems to care. We have police officers whom turn people away when they ask for help or do a less than perfect job investigating the case. We have incompetent Da's who don't care to punish individuals. Yes, the District attorneys office is overwhelmed, but that’s not an excuse to continue to let bad behavior go unpunished. The Judges should have been at that meeting because they are a part of this problem. For change to come forward and work every agency ( Police departments, Da’s office, Judges, and compliance programs need to start doing their jobs.) There has been a high rise in beatings around this town that have now turned deadly- the murder of John Rains and Weston Coho, and the others listed. Does someone else need to die for this community to realize there is a huge problem in this town? Why are so many of these individuals still on the streets walking around when they should be behind bars? There are individuals who where charged with the 09 Hate crimes and a few of them were the ones who committed the new murders in this town? Why did it take the district attorneys office 3 years to indict them on those charges. Why is the compliance office not doing their jobs when the offenders they are overseeing continue to do wrong? Why have some of these individuals been given more than one get out of jail free card? This whole town needs to be looked into and cleaned up. If the officers are not willing to do their jobs, then reports don’t go to the DA’S office. If the Da’s office is not wanting to do their jobs, then the bad people continue to pick up new and worse charges. If the compliance office is not willing to do their jobs, then the offenders are not being supervised and continue to fall off the deep end. If the Judges are not willing to do their jobs, then the offenders don’t get punished and they get to continue to walk the streets. Do you see how the circle in this town is full of people not willing to step up and take responsibility for their actions. These entities is half the reason why this town has seen a rise violent crimes. They need to step up and say okay this needs to change and this is what we are going to do to start to make those changes. Hold these agencies accountable for not doing their jobs. Hold these horrible offenders responsible for their horrific actions. The justice system is falling apart. The offenders in this town continue to do bad acts because they know they are not going to get punished. PEOPLE WHO WANT CHANGE, then think twice who you keep voting in ( because they obviously don’t care and they are not working on making changes to make this town a saver place). This town has a voice and its about time people start speaking.

  • hagis posted at 7:54 am on Fri, May 18, 2012.

    hagis Posts: 76

    It seems to me that the violent crimes are more noticeable then 10 yrs ago. I mean what does Grants have to offer for counseling, substance abuse and just pure fun? Not much. Many people do not get into trouble because jail is not an option. Those who do, it is a revolving door. The hospital has no solution but to hire social worker that is not up to par.
    As far as cops, well it is a job they choose 'knowing' the pay. They do stay because of ties. Writing a article and doing a study is not going to change anything. It may be helpful info, but what is the community going to do about it?
    I wrote a article/ study back in 2004 on school violence. It had great key points, but since then school shootings and violence have still occurred.
    As far a anti-bullying in school. That is just a mask. I had a child in school in early 90's and he was bullied so bad that things got bad for him, and the school refused to do anything. And now we are in 2012 and wanting to implement programs?
    Accountability is everyone's choice. I see what these judges and DA make good $ and if half of that money was used in the community then maybe, people would stop being repeat offenders turning into violent offenders.[wink]


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