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Murders are up 86% in Pueblo. This is what the city and FBI officials are doing

City officials and the FBI held a news conference Tuesday to draw attention to rising crime and homicides in Pueblo.

During the Tuesday morning conference, the FBI announced a major joint summer operation to counter gangs in Pueblo, while city officials discussed local efforts to combat gang and gun violence.

Mayor Heather Graham expressed concern about rising crime in Pueblo and called on parents to keep an eye on their children and teens.

“As a citizen of Pueblo, I am also frustrated with the gun violence and overall crime in our city,” she said. “And I want to be part of the solution to improve the quality of life for all Puebloans.”

Graham stated that while “Part 1” crimes – which include murder, assault, aggravated assault, theft, human trafficking, burglary, theft and arson – are down 6% as of last week compared to last year, homicides are down 86% increased.

The city of Pueblo has recorded 11 homicides this year; As of April 23 last year, the city had registered six, Graham said.

“Just because our Part 1 crimes are down 6% overall, we will not tolerate the many unnecessary deaths in the community,” she said.

Graham highlighted a March ordinance approved by the City Council that temporarily suspended the city’s civil service process with the intent of streamlining officer hiring, especially lateral transfers from other agencies who may otherwise be too low on the hiring list to be considered to come for recruitment during the current window.

Graham also called on the “parents, guardians, friends, siblings and loved ones” of young teens in the Pueblo community, especially those who participate in gang and gun violence, to “know where your children are at night.”

“Know where your teens’ friends are, who they are associated with, who drives them and who they are out with late at night,” Graham said. “Even if you think, ‘It can’t be my child or my friend,’ you need to be aware of how your supervision and care affects all of us in the community.”

FBI announces summer anti-gang operation

FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark Michalek said federal, state and local officials will conduct a joint operation this summer to disrupt gang activity in Pueblo.

“The FBI has met with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, the 10th Judicial DA’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the Pueblo Police Department to focus on impressions of violent crimes in the greater Pueblo area,” Michalek said.

Michalek noted that despite the perceived problems arising from bills passed by the Colorado Legislature in recent years, the FBI has had a successful partnership with Pueblo PD in recent years. As an example, Michalek cited the federal prosecution of Timothy Martinez, who was convicted in federal court on March 7 on drug and firearm-related charges.

“Now he is a criminal who is off the streets and will no longer threaten people with guns and poison them with dangerous drugs because he will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Michalek said.

Michalek noted that federal convictions reduce recidivism because inmates in federal prison must serve a much higher percentage of their sentence before being eligible for parole than state law requires — specifically 85% federally versus 50% in Colorado.

“We will continue to refine our strategies and use real-time intelligence and advanced technology to target serial offenders engaged in drug activity and gun violence,” he said.

The police chief speaks about efforts to fight crime and staff shortages

Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller said the department was short about 54 officers as of Tuesday morning.

In an effort to be more agile and proactive against gangs and gun violence, Noeller announced that the Pueblo Police Department is “in the process of eliminating” Watch III from the Patrol Division and transferring officers to the Criminal Investigations Division, with two additional crimes against detectives . , a Special Victims Unit detective and a property crimes detective. The department is also in the process of creating an “impact team,” which will focus solely on proactive policing against gangs and gun violence, Noeller said.

He noted that challenges from the state Legislature have impacted the department’s ability to reduce crime in Pueblo. Noeller specifically cited House Bill 22-1131, also known as the “Raise the Floor Act,” which raised the minimum age at which juveniles can be criminally charged from 10 to 12, except in homicide cases.

Noeller also noted a lack of capacity for juvenile offenders at Pueblo Youth Corrections, with only nine beds available to house youth who commit violent crimes.

More about murders and juvenile crime: The city of Pueblo saw 27 homicides in 2023. It’s the third year in a row with at least that amount

Noeller stated that juvenile crime and gang crime are often one and the same, with many recent violent juvenile crimes linked to gang activity.

Despite these challenges, the police chief stated that Pueblo PD has seen success in implementing new technology to fight crime.

“(Changes in staff allocation) in combination with our real-time crime center, which is expected to go live on June 1, the implementation of ShotSpotter, the installation of advanced license plate readers and other technologies will allow us to focus more directly on the violent crime, and together with federal partners we will make an impact,” said Noeller.

However, the chief also echoed Graham in asking community members to monitor and mentor their youth.

“We need parents, guardians, siblings and community members to help our youth,” he said. “Be mentors and be a positive influence. Parents, keep an eye on your children – be aware of who their friends are and if they are a positive influence. Be aware if they have a safe place and can go home safely to ride.”

More Pueblo public safety news: Pueblo police say the murder was captured on surveillance footage and ShotSpotter technology

Questions, comments or story tips? Contact Justin at [email protected]. Follow him on X, formally known as Twitter, @jayreutter1. Support local news and subscribe to The Pueblo Chieftain at Subscribe.chieftain.com.