Morning Word

SFPD Reports Increased Motor Vehicle Thefts in August

City of Santa Fe plans to launch first “Safe Outdoor Space” for unhoused people before the end of the year

SFPD reports August increase in motor vehicle thefts

Year-to-date, Santa Fe Police report a rise in most types of crimes across the city, including: motor vehicle thefts, arson, sex offenses, burglary, larceny and other types of assaults. The largest increase in a crime category so far in 2023 compared to last year is arson, of which police report 22 so far this year, a more than 69% increase from last year (although there were none last month). But homicides and robberies have declined thus far and August crime stats show a decrease across categories, with the exception of motor vehicle thefts and assaults. According to monthly crime stats scheduled to be presented at today’s 4 pm city Public Safety Committee meeting, motor vehicle thefts rose 22% in August compared to July, and have thus far grown by nearly 24% year to date. Assaults increased 4.6% in August compared to the month prior and have grown by less than 4% year-to-date. All other types of crimes listed declined. SFPD crime mapping shows where in the city various crimes have occurred; motor vehicle thefts last month occurred across the city (SFPD mapping counts 65; the crime stat report lists 61). SFPD also mapped 75 car break-ins last month, also across the city, with a cluster downtown. The committee meeting also includes an update on homelessness in the city and the city’s Safe Outdoor Space initiative. According to a timeline in the presentation, the city will be reviewing and approving agreements with operators of such spaces this month, followed by a town hall and a plan to launch the city’s first Safe Outdoor Space before the end of the year. The City Council approved a resolution for such spaces in April.

BLM proposes protecting Placitas from mining

The US Department of the Interior yesterday announced a proposal by the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw more than 4,000 acres of land in Placitas from federal mining leases. “Today we’re responding to call from Tribes, elected leaders, and community members who want to see these public lands protected,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “We look forward to hearing more from the public to inform decisions about how activities, like gravel mining, may impact these lands, including the important cultural and natural resources.” Yesterday’s announcement inaugurates a 90-day public comment period through Dec. 19; the BLM will also host a public meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, Nov. 14 at the Placitas Library. “We recognize the importance of the Placitas area, both for Tribal Nations and for the local community who visit and recreate in this area,” BLM New Mexico State Director Melanie Barnes said in a statement. “We look forward to receiving public feedback during the 90-day public comment period, as we consider protections for this area.” As noted in a news release, both the San Felipe and Santa Ana pueblos have long sought protection for the Placitas area, and legislation to protect it has been introduced in Congress numerous times, including by Haaland when she represented the 1st Congressional District. More information on the proposal, including maps and how to submit comments, can be found on the BLM’s e-Planning website.

State Supreme Court stresses warrantless search conditions

The state Supreme Court yesterday unanimously overturned a Clovis woman’s drug possession conviction and said police had violated her constitutional protection against unreasonable searches. “This case exemplifies the importance of making a sufficient record to support both the reasoning justifying a warrantless search,” the opinion says, as well as judicial notice as required under state law. The court ordered the case back to the District Court in Curry County to vacate Kaylee Ortiz’s 2015 felony conviction and suspended sentence of 18 months of probation for possession of a controlled substance. The case stems from Ortiz’s arrest by Clovis police, who searched her handbag following her arrest and found a flashlight containing “a small plastic baggie inside containing a substance that was later identified to be .14 grams of methamphetamine.” As explained in a news release, “under the law, warrantless searches are presumed to be unreasonable and the state has an obligation to prove they are reasonable under the circumstances.” Ortiz argued when she appealed her conviction that the search did not qualify for a “search-incident-to-arrest” exception, an argument with which the Court of Appeals agreed, a ruling yesterday’s Supreme Court opinion affirms. “In this case, we hold that the State failed to meet its burden to demonstrate the reasonableness of the officers’ search of Defendant’s purse because the State failed to put forth any evidence that the purse was within the Defendant’s immediate control such that Defendant presented a danger of gaining possession of a weapon or was in a position to destroy evidence of her arrest,” the Court wrote in an opinion by Justice Julie J. Vargas.

Investigations ongoing in AZ, NM “sober home” frauds

The Washington Post delves into an ongoing “sprawling web of alleged fraud” involving so-called “sober homes” in Arizona that has also impacted New Mexico. Last month, NM Attorney General Raúl Torrez and the Human Services Department launched a joint campaign, “Don’t be taken for a Ride,” warning that residents struggling with alcohol and drug addiction were “being lured into vehicles with the promise of drugs, alcohol, money, shelter or treatment for their conditions when instead they are being transported across state lines to illegitimate recovery facilities.” The Post reports Arizona officials “are still untangling the extent of alleged fraud committed by unscrupulous treatment centers and group homes during the past three years” and believe “the schemes may have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars” in Medicaid and other types of government programs. Officials also say the scam has disproportionately impacted Native Americans; the Navajo Nation last month declared a public health emergency, saying numerous Native Americans had been left homeless on the streets of Phoenix as a result. Lesheena Charley, 35, tells the Post she was approached by a group of men outside the Albuquerque Indian Center who offered her and other homeless people $100 gift cards if they got in their vans to go to a treatment center in Phoenix and “kick drugs” (Charley, who has struggled with both drugs and alcohol, did not go). But so many people have disappeared from that area that activist and ASUR New Mexico founder Christine Barber posted warning signs and has a list of 60 people who are missing. The Arizona AG’s office has thus far had at least 45 indictments but “will be working years in the future,” on the cases; multiple federal offices, including the IRS and the FBI, also are investigating. The New Mexico AG’s office tells SFR it has received and is following up on two “suspicious activity” tips.

Listen up

On the most recent episode of the Resilient New Mexico podcast, writer, artist and activist/organizer Naomi Ortiz joins hosts Sandra West and Peter Heald to discuss the intersection of disability justice and climate justice. “It’s very easy to look at disability and see vulnerability,” Ortiz says. “We often are on the edges of independence or institutionalization. We really need a lot to actually survive.” The disability community are sometimes “left out of the conversation of what it means to be prepared for” the climate crisis, she says, but “we have a lot of wisdom to offer.”

Food for life

Santa Fe-based chef and James Beard award-winning author Lois Ellen Frank’s newest cookbook, Seed to Plate, Soil to Sky: Modern Plant-Based Recipes Using Ancestral Native American Ingredients is “a love letter to the Southwest and its uniquely sizzling and savory flavors. And most of all, the Indigenous producers who cultivate and cherish them,” Frank tells Phoenix, Arizona National Public Radio station 91.5 KJZZ. The story spotlights Diné chef Rochelle Garcia and her business Blue Corn Custom Designs, one of several Indigenous businesses included in the book’s source guide. The book’s 130 recipes (which include Blue Corn Hotcakes with Prickly Pear Syrup, Three Sisters Stew and Green Chile Enchilada Lasagna) focus on the “Magic Eight” ingredients Native Americans introduced to the world: potatoes, tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, chile, cacao and vanilla and uses those foundational ingredients in its recipes for plant-based eating. Chef Walter Whitewater (Diné) served as the cookbook’s culinary advisor and says plant-based eating has helped with his own health issues. “When I looked at the pictures of my ancestors, I saw slim people,” Whitewater tells Forks Over Knives. “They were all healthy and vital. I decided that food would be my medicine, so I changed and ate only traditional foods.”

Celebrating Hispanic culture

Hispanic Heritage Month is underway (through Oct. 15), and the state Tourism Department has a plethora of suggestions for how to celebrate. Those recommendations include a visit to the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque; tapas, wine and flamenco at El Flamenco Spanish Cabaret; and the forthcoming Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta (Sept. 27-Oct. 1). Several events for the latter have already sold out, so peruse the schedule now. “Celebrate wine in the country’s oldest wine region with its vines deeply rooted in Hispanic history and heritage,” the Tourism Department writes (in case you were wondering what the connection might be). The annual Harvest Festival at El Rancho de las Golondrinas also falls within Hispanic Heritage Month (Oct. 7-8), and includes a chance to learn how to make traditional red chile ristras. Travel Pulse also includes a New Mexico shout-out in its story on “Latino travel companies to support this Hispanic Heritage Month”: Food Tour New Mexico, founded in 2010 by Nick Peña, one of the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 “40 Under 40″ business award honorees. The 2023 40 Under 40 honorees have been announced and will be recognized at 5 pm, Friday, Sept. 22 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. Finally, New Mexico PBS has a slew of special new and encore programming.

Warm up

The National Weather Service forecasts a return to warmer, drier weather for the next few days, with sunny skies today, a high temperature near 80 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The Word is wondering whether she thinks the US will wage war in outer space in the next 50 years, after reading in the October Harper’s Index that 44% of Americans hold that belief (taken from this interesting Pew Research Center report).

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.