By Sharna Johnson, Freedom New Mexico
Recruitment and retention, continued interagency collaboration, improved equipment and training, the fight against drugs, graffiti and truancy — These are but a few of the priorities law enforcement agencies have for the new year.
As 2008 begins, area departments are outlining their objectives and evaluating obstacles they expect to face.
District Attorney Matt Chandler said his focus for the coming year is on his office’s truancy program, The Newman Project which is a senior safety program, and more narcotic enforcement.
“It is primarily narcotics that we’re fighting against and we continue to focus our efforts on eliminating methamphetamines from our district,” he said.
He believes attacking narcotics in the community, especially methamphetamines, will reduce other crime rates.
Strict prosecution of repeat drug offenders and efforts to rehabilitate addicts go hand in hand, Chandler said.
“When a methamphetamine user is arrested we have to look at whether rehabilitation is the answer. With regard to manufacturing and trafficking, the only option is long term incarceration,” he said. “The people that are feeding methamphetamines to our community need to be locked up.”
Capt. Lonnie Berry said his department is focused on more aggressive enforcement with an emphasis on building more narcotics cases and increased traffic enforcement.
“We want to continue our narcotic enforcement and keep down traffic issues. Traffic enforcement is a good way to keep burglaries and (other) things down,” he said.
In the last year, Berry said the number of calls Portales police received increased and they want to be prepared to respond to the needs of the community.
They obtained resources last year such as a command trailer for major incident response and a new crime scene van and plan to continue seeking funding to increase department resources, Berry said.
They will also focus on training programs so they are prepared and proficient when called on.
Recruitment is an ongoing issue plaguing law enforcement, according to Clovis police Lt. Jim Schoeffel.
“The shortage is not strictly a Clovis Police Department issue,” he said.
Clovis has nine openings for officers, a number which has not changed much in recent months, he explained.
A shortage of dispatchers in August reached a crisis point but has been overcome with all but one position filled, he said.
Officers are another matter. Qualified applicants aren’t turning up, he said.
“I’m just not getting applicants that can pass the requirements,” he said.
Schoeffel said the applicants he has are typically weeded out by physical fitness standards.
Berry said his department too has outlined recruitment as a challenge and priority currently and in the future.
“Recruiting is going to be the challenge over the next few years. We have to get (officers) into the system and get them trained,” he said.
“We would really like to get to a full staff. We struggle towards that.”