Albuquerque’s Violence Intervention Program: “We Cannot Cease Our Means Out of Crime”

Garcia said the program actually tackles the underlying causes of why people do what they do.

“We speak to victims of gun violence,” said Garcia. “People who are known to have committed gun violence, people in their network. We are trying to target individuals who are known to run in groups or violent groups.”

Garcia grew up in Los Angeles and spent more than a decade in prison.

“From 18 to 33, those years, I could remember celebrating about three birthdays on the street,” he said.

But the problems began long before he was first arrested, at the age of 18. Growing up, Garcia saw his uncles load guns and run home after a shootout.

“I faced it very, very young,” he said. “In these neighborhoods, even if you don’t get into the game and still live in this area, you are still being targeted because you live in this area, you know. So either you’re damned if you do, you are damn if you don’t. “

Garcia said he later realized he needed to change his life.

“The turning point for me was when I saw another inmate going through an episode of mental psychosis, I think you could call it because his mother died,” Garcia said. “And he was in his fifties and had a complete breakdown and broke down.”

All Garcia could think of was his own mother, who never gave up on him.

“If I don’t stop, I’ll most likely end up in prison for life or get killed,” he said. “Anyway, I won’t be there for my mother when she gets older and there is nothing I can do for her.”

Garcia left Los Angeles and moved to Albuquerque to live with another uncle and start over. The first thing his uncle told him was that he had to enroll in college and get an education.

Garcia started joining CNM and graduated as an associate in electrical engineering. During a presentation at college, Garcia said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller happened to be there and heard his story. Keller offered Garcia an interview for the violence intervention program.

Now he is the social services coordinator. The program has reached 140 people, only eight of whom were arrested again for nonviolent crimes.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to, I tell them, look, I fully understand that they don’t want services right now,” Garcia said. “If you think you don’t need it, just save my number. And if you want to call me, I’ll still be there to help. And it happened about four or five months later, they’ll call me. “

Garcia said it will be some time before the city sees the results it is hoping for.

“It took Oakland two to three years to see fifty percent of their shootings go down,” said Garcia. “New Haven, Connecticut – it took four years to see drastic results. We have been in operation for a year … give us the chance to water this garden that we are about to plant. “

Garcia is now doing his bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico. His mother moved to Albuquerque from Los Angeles – he looks after her and is also working on buying a home.

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