Our office emphasizes the community and its experience with crime. We reach beyond the bounds of traditional prosecution to improve our understanding of crime and our utilization of resources. Victim services and prevention initiatives are at the forefront of our efforts. We have been administering grant money and creating a variety of projects geared towards engaging community partners, addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and taking a community approach to crime reduction.
When law enforcement agents confronted Michael White* about the pharmaceutical drugs he’d stolen from work, White was terrified that he’d end up in prison. Instead, he became a part of the Bernalillo County District Attorney Office’s Pre-Prosecution Diversion (PPD) Program that would help him overcome his drug addiction and give him a new sense of self-pride.
“I owe [the program] my life,” White said. “It was like a guardian angel.”
The PPD program is preadjudicated, meaning people can enter the program before they are arrested. It is an option for offenders with little or no criminal history and the current charge cannot be a violent crime. In most cases, Defendants must sign an admission statement and if they get terminated from the program, the District Attorney’s Office will proceed with prosecution. While in the program, Defendants check-in daily with their PPD officers, updating them on things like counseling sessions, job applications and drug intervention programs.
“[The program] made [my actions] real, but also it made me have to be accountable,” White said. “It helped me not to give up on myself.”
White was referred to the PPD program after he was charged with fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance in 2014 while he was battling an amphetamine addiction. He said he would’ve continued to destroy his life if the program’s officers had not intervened and helped him recover.
“They always encourage me to better myself and I wasn’t going to fail them or myself,” White said.
When White describes the immense support system he felt during the 24 months he was a part of the PPD program, he’s referring to the unit of 3, Michelle Padilla, Helen Saiz and Nicole Morales, who oversee all PPD cases.
“When people get out of PPD, they’re going to be productive members of this community,” Pre-Prosecution Director, Michelle Padilla said.
Padilla said she and her team are committed to helping everyone involved in the program and providing them with the resources to get better. Those resources include therapy, getting a GED or treatment plans to help people overcome their drug addictions.
“This is a public health crisis,” Padilla said. “I don’t want people to fail out of the program and get prosecuted because they have a substance abuse issue.”
Padilla said when she met White, she knew he was dedicated to getting clean. We were persistent because we wanted to get him out of the program successfully. We wanted to get him clean, she said.
“I don’t know anyone that wants to be an addict or that likes to be an addict,” Padilla said. “He tried really hard.”
Padilla said she loves helping people through the program and providing people with support to overcome whatever issue they’re facing.
“If they’ve made a mistake and they’re remorseful, people should be given second chances. That’s what this program is designed for,” Padilla said.
A second chance White has not taken for granted. Since successfully completing the program, he has become an ICU nurse and father to a two-year old girl. He said he encourages his patients not to use their difficult circumstances as an excuse to continue down destructive paths.
“The program removed the stigma that everyone is a criminal. Some people are just in a bad spot,” White said.
*Name changed to protect identity of subject.
CiQlovía is an annual event that promotes community health and safety by closing down some streets to traffic and creating a fun and safe space for cyclists and pedestrians. It is modeled after similar “open streets” events worldwide. CiQlovía began in the city of Bogota, Colombia in the early 1970’s in an effort to promote health and safety for people who travel primarily by foot. Albuquerque started its own version of the CiQlovía festival seven years ago and continues to participate in this annual phenomenon.
For the second year in a row, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office will be participating in Albuquerque CiQlovía. This year’s event will begin on October 12 and end on October 18. Many of the CiQlovia activities will occur virtually this year, including a photo-a-day challenge and a scavenger hunt! Selected streets throughout Albuquerque will be closed on October 18 and will include a few recharge stations throughout the International District, Downtown, South Valley, North Valley, and Westgate communities. A map including recharge station locations can be found here:
Our Community Based Crime Reduction (CBCR) team and other volunteers from our office will partner with Highland High School students to participate in clean-up projects in small, socially distanced groups on October 17. These activities will directly benefit local businesses and neighborhoods in the International District. On October, 18, our team will host a recharge station and will provide water, games and activities, and other exciting giveaways. Visit us at the Endorphin Power Company parking lot on the corner of Zuni and Cardenas.
“Our participation in CiQlovía stems out further than supporting the activities during the event. We want to know more about our communities and what citizens’ concerns and priorities are for public safety,” Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez said. “We hope you will join us in this community event whether that be virtually or in-person following the social distancing guidelines. Don’t forget to wear your mask!”
To join CiQlovía virtually or to learn more about the event be sure to follow the Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/abqciqlovia/.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez signs on to Fair and Just Prosecution’s Joint Statement from Elected Prosecutors on the Murder of George Floyd and Police Violence, urging the adoption of recommendations on the following:
Enhancing Accountability and Addressing Misconduct
Addressing Racially Disparate Policing and Protecting Human Life
A Reset of Our Justice System
New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence Hotline: (505) 246-9240
New Mexico Domestic Legal Aid Help Line: 1 (877) 974-3400
New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs: 1 (888) 883-8020
All Faiths Children Advocacy Center: (505) 271-0329
S.A.F.E House Emergency Shelter: (505) 247-4219
Albuquerque Women’s Resource Center: (505) 242-7033 or 505.277.3716
Morning Star – Advocacy Program for Native American Women: (505) 232-8299
Women’s Advocacy Group: (505) 884-1241
Enlace – Spanish Speaking: (505) 246-8972
911 or the non-emergency number: (505) 242-COPS (2677)
Restraining Orders: (505) 841-8400
Crime Victims Reparation Commission: (505) 841-9432
Theresa Romero, Bernalillo County’s first community prosecutor, is part of a pilot program to bridge the gap between the community, police, and DA’s Office.
The Bernalillo County District Attorney is following the governor’s lead, giving his employees paid parental leave.
Cutting-edge technology and police work are helping law enforcement agencies solve a lot of crimes.
A new computer app is aiming to make it easier for police officers and sheriff’s deputies to find accused criminals who have warrants in and around Albuquerque.
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office Crime Strategies Unit is nearly finished developing the app, which will allow law enforcement officers to map out the last known locations of accused fugitives in their nearby range.