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‘Small Businesses for a Safer Las Cruces’ aims to work with city leaders to curb property crime

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- For two months now, local business owners and city leadership in Las Cruces have been working to find solutions to lower property crime across the city.

Vic Villalobos, one of the founders of Small Businesses for a Safer Las Cruces, says frustrated businesses owners and the city of las cruces ultimately want the same thing — a safer community.

Villalobos owns two businesses near the Valley and Amador area - with one, Las Cruces Dock Diving, being located directly next to the property where Officer Jonah Hernandez was stabbed to death in February.

The tragedy led to him teaming up with two other small business owners to form the group, which quickly grew to 300 other businesses voicing their concerns about property crimes in the area.

He says the organization’s first encounter with city leadership was quote, a little rough, but has since had collaborative conversations with the mayor and city council to find solutions to lower crime.

“Tension was high, and that city council meeting was a little hard, but things have settled down," says Villalobos.

"We’re really looking for solutions, we’ve been working with the council, we’re working with leadership to try and figure out what these solutions are that people can help with to bring change," he adds.

The group also came up with the "Have Your Six" initiative, which is meant to show that these businesses have the backs of law enforcement and first responders who Villalobos say are an integral part of the solution.

“You have now restaurants, other businesses supporting the police department, whether it just be a discount for police officers and their families, or just a place if they need to come and take a break in the parking lot and grab a bottle of water out of the fridge, they are welcome to do that," Villalobos says.

Las Cruces Police Chief Jeremy Story says these kind of gestures formalize the support that these businesses have for law enforcement, and help lead everyone towards taking action to lower crime.

“When people feel hope, and they have that energy, we start moving towards a common goal, and it’s not just about complaining, [and] although people have valid complaints, it’s about spreading a message that will lead to action," says Story.

Story outlined his main goals to lower crime back in March, which includes changing or introducing new ordinances, tackling the meth and fentanyl crisis, and establishing a real-time crime center that’s seen in other New Mexico cities.

While talks of goals and action from the city and chief story are promising, some believe it will take time.

This includes Small Businesses for a Safer Las Cruces member Dr. Kyle Schumacher, who's veterinary clinic is located on Valley Dr.

“I think the hard thing for me and other small businesses is its gonna take years for trying to get legislative change, getting the real-time crime center up, to have the care and resources for people with illegal drug addiction, so I don’t think it will be in the short term," says Schumacher.

Chief Story says there’s some things business owners can already do to help with the police department's response, such as putting up no soliciting signs on their properties to help with panhandling issues.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

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Jason McNabb

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist & GMEP Weekends co-anchor


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