Newscity: Hate Crimes Unreported, Slow Navajo Cops And Cannabis Industry Grows

Joshua Lee
4 min read
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An Associated Press investigation has found that nearly half of New Mexico’s law enforcement has failed to report hate crime totals to the FBI since 2009. According to the report, 53 of the 118 agencies in the state did not report these crimes, along with more than 2,700 police and sheriff’s offices nationwide. Reporting hate crimes is voluntary. The FBI, however, has made it the priority of its civil rights division to investigate crimes motivated by a victim’s race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or ethnicity, and says groups that “preach hatred and intolerance plant the seeds of terrorism here in our country,” as well as negatively affecting the community. Advocates are concerned that the trend of underreporting these crime statistics could lead to a faulty portrayal of national social progress, as evidenced in the alleged decrease in hate crimes reported in 2014 by the Bureau. Greg Gurule, a spokesperson for the Santa Fe police, says the FBI has never requested hate crime statistics from his department. Only Hawaii, Mississippi, Louisiana and Indiana had higher rates for unreported hate crimes.

Navajo Authorities' Poor Response Time Questioned

A Shiprock police captain has been put on administrative leave following criticism of the Navajo Nation police department’s mishandling of a case involving the brutal sexual assault and murder of an 11-year-old girl last month, as well as the community’s lack of an emergency alert system. Ashlynne Mike was reported missing to the Navajo police on May 2 around 6:30pm, the local sheriff’s department was not notified until around 9:30pm, when a San Juan County Sheriff found out accidentally while talking to the FBI about an unrelated case. State officials were not notified until nearly 12:20am the next morning, and the Amber Alert—the national missing child alert—wasn’t issued until 2:30am, a full eight hours after the kidnapping had occurred. The community’s search for the child, however, had begun almost immediately, with news of the disappearance spreading via word-of-mouth and social media. Rick Nez, president of the San Juan Chapter of the Navajo Nation, criticized the police for being too slow to release the Amber Alert, which he believes would have saved the girl’s life. According to the FBI, the attacker left the victim alive. Navajo President Russell Begaye has acknowledged that a more effective response system needs to be implemented.

Medical Cannabis Business Expanding

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the state’s medical cannabis industry has been growing larger and attracting more patients over the last year. New Mexico currently has 23 licensed nonprofit producers operating 37 dispensaries in 16 counties. Bernalillo County hosts 13 licensed producers that operate 16 dispensaries. Many existing producers have plans to open more locations this year, and 12 nonprofits licensed by the New Mexico Department of Health are setting up new growing facilities around the state to keep up with rising demands. The number of patients licensed to legally purchase medical marijuana has more than tripled this year, going from 18,062 in the first quarter of 2015 to 55,016 this year. Sales of medical cannabis nearly doubled in that time, from $5.7 million to $10 million. Many dispensaries are starting to operate more openly, and some are trying to make the atmosphere of their businesses more palatable to patients by giving them a more mainstream appearance. Dispensaries are also becoming major employers, paying $3 million in salaries and other compensation in the first quarter of this year. Advocates have noted that cannabis is a safer alternative to prescription opioids, which have caused more than 165,000 overdose-related deaths in the U.S. between 1999 and 2014.
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