Gov. Bill Richardson announces his public safety plan Thursday at the Clovis-Carver Public Library. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
Gov. Bill Richardson was in town Thursday to speak with local citizens and officials about his 2005 public safety plan and legislative proposals.
He arrived at the Clovis-Carver Library about 2 p.m. in a series of stops he was making throughout the state.
In his speech, Richardson laid out new initiatives toward reducing drunken driving, sex crimes and gang activity and talked about strengthening New Mexico’s court system.
He laid out several new initiatives aimed at beefing up punishments for those convicted of driving while intoxicated. He said he will present the initiatives to the Legislature.
“This is a scourge on New Mexico communities, and no one is immune,” he said.
He proposed increasing the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted DWI offenders and lowering the legal blood alcohol content for repeat DWI offenders to .06, down from .08.
“This is going to be controversial, but because we have so many repeat offenders, I believe we need it,” Richardson said.
The governor also proposed a program called Drunkbusters, a 1-800 number that could be used to report drunk driving, sales to intoxicated people and instances of alcohol provided to minors.
Gloria Wicker, who is running for Curry County Commission, agreed with the governor’s plans to curb drunk driving in the state.
“The governor’s ideas are excellent, but they are long overdue, especially on the DWIs,” Wicker said. “When you see people who have been arrested 27 times (for DWI), and nothing has happened to them, I personally think they should take their cars away from them on the third offense.”
Addressing the problem of sexual offenses, Richardson said New Mexico will never again be viewed as a haven for sexual predators. He proposed a plan that would raise the felony levels on rapes, especially when perpetrated on incapacitated victims, from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. He also proposed prohibiting state employment for registered sex offenders.
“Does it mean, that if you are a state employee you can be a sex offender? The answer is, under current law, yes,” Richardson said.
He said he fired a sexual offender, but his own state personnel board reversed the decision. He wants to make it very clear no registered sex offender can work for the state, he said.
The governor laid out a plan that would add cyber-stalking — stalking over a telephone, e-mail or other electronic device — to the current anti-stalking laws, a move that would bring New Mexico up to par with most other states that have already incorporated cyber-stalking into their anti-stalking laws.
Bob Schwartz, Richardson’s crime advisor, addressed the New Mexico gang problem, and said the governor wanted to attack the problem on three levels: tactical, strategic and preventative. Initiatives would include a statewide gang database for law enforcement and methods for disrupting the trade of illegal narcotics, thereby cutting off financial resources for gangs, he said.
Clovis City Manager Ray Mondragon said the gang problem in Clovis must be attacked head-on, and the extra support of the state will help local initiatives.
“It’s important that we take the fight to them, and the additional resources and money will certainly help,” Mondragon said.
Richardson outlined his plan to implement early childhood, pre-kindergarten education, something New Mexico lacks today. He said it can be achieved by working with private child-care agencies, churches and schools.
“By five years old, their mind is already developed,” he said. “If we get to kids early, we can start prevention so much earlier.”
Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa, said the childhood education programs are critical, especially for children in rural areas.
“We are finding that more and more young children that are coming from the (dairy) industry, their primary language is not English,” Campos said. “We need to start to get these kids prepared and ready so … they are able to fully appreciate and take advantage of the opportunities that our educational system offers.”
After his speech, Richardson made a short stop at the True Victory Church at the corner of Seventh and Main streets, but was unable to stay for a previously scheduled Democratic rally there.