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Editorial: Crime bills must get high priority in state funding

New Mexico’s reputation for crime and a revolving door for criminals is nothing to write mom about. In fact, most moms would be appalled to receive that letter.

New Mexico had the nation’s second-highest violent crime rate in 2013. It is one of the most dangerous states for gun violence. It is one of the worst for drunken and careless driving.

New Mexico lawmakers are considering several get-tough-on-crime proposals that aim to change the state’s bad reputation. Gov. Susana Martinez has called for tougher sentencing laws, too.

One of the bills would expand the state’s never-used “three-strikes” law for repeat violent criminals. It passed the House on Thursday. Three proposals to increase penalties for convicted child abusers and those who possess child pornography also passed the full House.

Three anti-DWI bills that would enhance penalties for repeat offenders, make DWI felonies count toward habitual offender status and charge people with a fourth-degree felony if they loan their vehicle to a known DWI offender cleared a House committee.

A proposed constitutional amendment that would allow judges to hold dangerous defendants without bond – and seek to ensure nonviolent, low-level offenders are not kept in jail awaiting trial solely because they can’t make bail – was strongly endorsed in Senate Judiciary.

Public safety is one of the most important and basic services government can provide. Ignoring the state’s crime crisis won’t keep its citizens safe or help sell the state to prospective businesses, industry or tourists.

The House has sent a strong slate of public safety bills to the Senate, where Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez has expressed serious reservations about whether they are needed. New Mexicans can only hope the upper chamber will work with the House on this crime package – making our state a safer place.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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