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No Replacement for Hard Data

The seal of New Mexico, printed onto a tile floor.

“We have a lot of public safety issues that in my view still require immediate and dramatic attention.” That quote from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during my interview with her this week serves as a boiled-down version of her urgent, albeit vague, appeal for a special session as she tries to convince state lawmakers to reconvene at the Roundhouse this spring. And while a large swath of the public might feel the same way, legislative leadership seems skeptical of how effective the governor’s proposed bills would be in curbing the “public safety issues” she’s concerned about.

If you read our newsletter each week, you might remember my very first essay on Lujan Grisham’s executive order banning guns in public spaces in Albuquerque and the surrounding area. My goal with that piece was to highlight the disconnect between the perception and the reality of gun violence in our state’s largest city. This week, I’m drawn back to that line of thinking.

I’m also interested in what specific problems the governor is trying to solve with the bills she’s put forward. When I asked her that question, this was a portion of her response: “It’s happened to me personally and I’m going to bet it’s happened to members of your team where you work — where someone is chasing the car or outside with a crowbar, a machete, a 2×4, trying to push into you with a shopping cart…I’m looking to attenuate that behavior.”

While I can’t say I or anyone I know has been chased through the streets of Albuquerque by a machete-wielding madman, there is no denying that I and many other people have experienced some pretty strange and frightening incidents. The power of anecdotal evidence cannot be discounted, but it should not be used as a replacement for hard data, something that’s often lacking from the larger conversation around public safety in our state.

That brings me to a question Correspondent Gwyneth Doland asked of Daniel Williams, the ACLU of New Mexico’s policing and policy advocate: “Is this a real emergency or a political one?” That’s something I can’t prove one way or another, so I won’t try. But it is a question we as voters should all consider, so I encourage you to watch Williams’ response during our second segment of the show this week.

The fact that legislative leadership remains hesitant, or even resistant to taking up the governor’s preferred bills is another interesting factor in this equation. I asked Lujan Grisham why she expects they might change their tune in the next few weeks when they haven’t strayed off-key for the past three and a half months. She didn’t give a clear answer other than to say she’s working at it and keeping the conversation going.

All of this is to say, as much as Lujan Grisham might want one, I don’t know whether we’ll see a special session on public safety this year. And as dire as many people think the crime situation is in Albuquerque and around the state, I don’t know whether any of the bills the governor wants on the call would have a tangible impact on the actual crime happening in New Mexico. We won’t reach any level of certainty that legislative action is a viable solution if that action isn’t backed up by the data.  

– Lou DiVizio Senior Producer