Jessica Palmer and
Record Staff Writers
A group of declared local candidates and officials held a press conference Thursday to discuss their concerns about a recent spate of violent crime that has affected Roswell and Chaves County.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Murphy, Rep. Bob Wooley and County Commissioner Greg Nibert; and candidates, including Pat Barncastle, Dennis Kintigh, Caleb Grant and Jerry Heck gave statements and took questions from local citizens outside the Roswell Convention and Civic Center.
“We need to ask the hard questions,” Kintigh said. “that’s the whole purpose of this gathering.”
Kintigh, who announced his intention to run for mayor in September, retired from the FBI in 2007 and recently served as a detective for the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office. His No. 1 priority as mayor, he said, would be to address public safety.
The candidates assembled Thursday had “serious concerns about the well- being of our community,” Kintigh said.
Kintigh also spoke about his concerns over the drug problem.
“Drugs are all through this community,” Kintigh said. “Drugs are a plague that runs rampant. We have an epidemic.”
Pat Barncastle, lead investigator for the District Attorney’s office, discussed fugitive apprehension. He quoted the figures for outstanding warrants, with 3,381 between the Roswell Police Department and the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, and an estimated 1,500 outstanding warrants for New Mexico State Police, a total close to 5,000 outstanding warrants in Chaves County.
He said it would take a collective effort on the part of law enforcement.
“We need to go out and start knocking on doors.”
Murphy said that 80 percent of crimes in Roswell were drug related and that many of the incidents of concern were under investigation, with much of the information which could not be revealed at the time.
Joan Boue reported an incident that had occurred in her neighborhood on Sunday. “We reported it and we were asked if we want to talk to an officer. We’re still waiting.”
After the press conference, Hudson Boue explained that their neighborhood is regularly patrolled by burglars who walk off with garden ornaments.
He also commented about the strain for the the police department following a spate of shootings and asked the panel if the homicides were gang related.
Kintigh said the recent shootings were more clan- and family-related, rather than gang related.
On the issue of stress, he said that it was important to get staff numbers up so that the police could go home and get refreshed.
He asked for the community to recognize those who “wear a badge in this community.”
“Go out of your way to lift them up with your words,” Kintigh said.
City Council candidate from Ward 2, Caleb Grant, talked about manpower shortages and the need to allocate more money to the police department.
“Currently, we’re not competitive in the area and the industry as a whole,” Grant said. “We can’t wait until we have four to five shootings in a week and then address this. Our city budget needs to be refocused.”
Kintigh said that recruiting and retention of officers should be top priority. “We simply don’t have enough to do the job out there, so the guys and gals can go home and get some rest,” he said. “This is one of my most crucial concerns.”
Another council candidate from Ward 2, Jerry Heck, discussed the differences between the ratio between the police department staff and city employees in Roswell and those in Hobbs, with Roswell having fewer police and 600 city employees while Hobbs has proportionately more police and 450 city employees.
Hudson Boue asked: “Where is the mayor? We are in crisis. Where are our city officials?”
“There needs to be open communication from law enforcement to the community,” Kintigh said. “That’s one of the ways of dealing with fear.”
Mayor Del Jurney said the city had not held a news conference to address the recent shooting incidents or crime, but the police department is continuing to work on the problems.
The officers “are out there putting their lives on the line for our community,” Jurney said. “Press conferences don’t solve issues. Our police department is solid. They’re very capable and they do a good job. The things that are happening right now are between those aspects of the criminal life. If you don’t live in that criminal element, you’re OK. It’s people making poor decisions.”