Roswell Chamber of Commerce hosted a talk about the Effects of Violence on the Community, at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. Former State Representative and FBI agent Dennis Kintigh spoke.
“My intentions are to encourage discussion and critical debate in the community,” he said.
He said that only when problem is acknowledged can it be addressed. Kintigh referred to himself as doubly cursed, having an engineering degree and 21 years’ experience in law enforcement. As a result, Kintigh likes concrete definitions and statistics.
The information pertained to New Mexico as a state, rather than Roswell in particular, and he compared them against adjacent Western states and national averages.
During his presentation, Kintigh asked people to assess the economy in New Mexico. Most agreed that the economy was poor overall.
According to the statistics, New Mexico is ranked as the third worst in the union in terms of income, according to recent U.S. census data.
“Violence is a huge issue,” said Kintigh.
Violent crimes were also defined according to the FBI data, as a murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault (in NM battery).
Violent crimes nationwide from 2011 statistics were 386.3 per 100,000 population, with murders at 4.7 per 100,000. New Mexico reported 567.5 violent crimes for the year and 7.5 murders/100,000.
Roswell, with a reported census population of less than 50,000, had eight murders in 2012. If converted by a multiple of two for 100,000, Roswell would rank with Chicago, with a statistical 16 murders per 100,000. Only three states, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alaska exceeded New Mexico’s violent crime rate, and only Mississippi with 8 murders per 100,000 exceeds New Mexico’s overall rate of 7.5.
While New Mexico appears to forge ahead in the area of violent crime, it falls behind in punishment. Offenders in prison varied from state to state; however, violent offenders imprisoned in surrounding states averaged between 1.58 and 1.69, with the exception of Arizona with a high 1.98. New Mexico did not fare well with 6,988 in prison and only 0.6 violent officers finding their way into the state prison system.
Kintigh spoke about his experiences working as a detective for the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, which gave him a new perspective on New Mexico laws. He discussed some of the peculiarities of New Mexico statutes with the old-style system of “assault” spoken altercation and “battery,” where a person was a victim of violence.
The sentences here are light by other states’ standards. Kintigh noted that it was almost impossible to get felony charges for battery, or aggravated battery, while simple battery represented a misdemeanor.
Kintigh said that attempted second-degree murder actually resulted in shorter sentences than aggravated battery.
New Mexico has no felony murder statutes as is found in most other states. Felony murder means homicide that results from the commission of a crime. Any participant is considered culpable. In New Mexico, the legal system is stumped. Unless the courts can physically place a gun in a person‘s hands, no murder charges can be brought.
He concluded: “A penny wise a pound short is a foolish approach to crime. …We need to incarcerate people to get them off the streets.”