During the 2023 Legislative Session, few proposals to tackle the state’s crime epidemic reached the governor’s desk. A handful of bills focusing on retail crime, catalytic converter thefts, and cyber security ultimately passed, but nothing specifically tackling carjackings or other violent crimes.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) report shows New Mexico has the fourth-highest rate of car thefts in the nation, with Albuquerque leading the state in rates of carjackings.
H.B. 491, a bill to tackle car theft, sponsored by Reps. Cynthia Borrego (D-Albuquerque), Joseph Sanchez (D-Alcalde), and Art De La Cruz (D-Albuquerque) died in its first committee, with four leftist Democrats rejecting the measure.
The bill would increase penalties for the unlawful taking of a vehicle, embezzlement of a vehicle, or fraudulently taking a vehicle.
According to the bill’s fiscal impact report, “Under the revised penalties, anyone convicted for these crimes could be guilty of a fourth-degree felony for a first offense; a third-degree felony for a second offense, regardless of which provision was the first offense; and a second-degree felony for a third or subsequent offense, regardless of which provision was the first or second offense.”
Borrego explained was necessary due to the increased number of car thefts, including a family member of hers who owns a car lot and fell victim to thieves stealing a vehicle then later trashing it miles away.
Despite carjackers seeming to become increasingly emboldened to steal vehicles in New Mexico, the four Democrats on the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, Reps. Joanne Ferrary (D-Las Cruces), Angelica Rubio (D-Las Cruces), Liz Thomson (D-Albuquerque), and Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe) quickly tabled the bill. Reps. Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park) and John Block (R-Alamogordo) both voted against tabling the bill.
Block wrote on Twitter following the vote, “The NM House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee just tabled a commonsense bill that would enhance penalties for repeat offending carjackers. NM is top in the nation for car thefts, but the bill died on a party-line 4-2 vote despite it being sponsored by 3 Dems. What a clown show.”
Other bills that died on arrival in the committee included legislation from Rep. Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque) to curb fentanyl dealing, increase sentences for illegal gun possession, and make it easier to keep suspects behind bars pending trial.
Without meaningful crime bills getting across the finish line, it is unlikely crime in the state will let up, as weak-on-crime legislators have prevailed in killing proposals from both Democrats and Republicans to fix the scourge of violence and lawlessness in New Mexico.