You’ve seen the FBI’s Gun Crime Billboard. Here’s what that means.

LAS CRUCES – Four people have been killed in Las Cruces since the start of the year. In each case, police believe the firearms played a vital role.

Whether the victims were shot dead, engaged in a shootout Where used a gun to threaten someone, guns were a notable feature of the 2022 Las Cruces murders. In many ways, this is nothing new. Last year, all but two of nine homicide cases claimed a firearm was the murder weapon.

Las Cruces has also seen an increase in aggravated assaults over the past decade, according to statistics from the FBI and the Las Cruces Police Department. While some of the serious assaults come from other lethal weapons, many involve firearms.

It’s the trend that the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office are seeking to disrupt with a two-pronged initiative in southern New Mexico.

First, the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office seek to inform the public – including those who may commit a crime with a firearm – that many crimes committed with a firearm are subject to charges. federal and federal penalties.

“(People who commit crimes) know exactly what it means to be arrested by the state and what it means to be arrested in the federal system,” said Albuquerque FBI Special Agent in Charge Raul. Bujanda. Sun-News during a recent interview.

Second, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said it will assess state criminal cases to determine if and when federal charges are applicable. Often they are, according to U.S. District Attorney for New Mexico Fred Federici.

“We will sometimes see defendants making a first court appearance who are stunned when they hear about potential penalties for federal charges or realize they are going to be held pre-trial when they face federal prosecution. “, said Federici.

The fear of additional jail time is the deterrent Federici and Bujanda hope to communicate to New Mexicoers.

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Incidents involving felons in possession of firearms or robberies and robberies that interfere with interstate commerce can take several additional years in federal prison. And, since New Mexico does not have a federal penitentiary, those convicted of federal crimes would be removed from the state.

“So they are going to be sent away from home,” Bujanda said. “And that’s usually a key thing where they like to stay close to where they are and what they’re comfortable with.”

Still, the messaging campaign raises the question of how increased prison sentences and sentences will deter gun violence in New Mexico. Federici said it was a matter of common sense.

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“Common sense tells you that if you have people who have been shown to be violent actors in the past, they’re the ones who shouldn’t be in possession of guns,” Federici said. “These are the people we need to get off our streets because they are fueling the problem.”

Bujanda added that federal time deterrence will make it harder for people to calculate whether a crime has been committed.

“They don’t want to go back and spend another day in jail, let alone in federal prison, because it’s real time,” he said.

As tough-on-crime messages spread across southern New Mexico, Bujanda and Federici admitted that Albuquerque has received the lion’s share of the attention. Still, Bujanda and Federici said they want people across the state to know that committing a crime with a gun could land you in federal prison.

“It’s literally a one-way ticket to the federal system,” Bujanda said.

Justin Garcia is a public safety reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Just516garc.

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