A vehicle was stolen on Tuesday in broad daylight in Albuquerque outside a venue where a progressive prosecutor backed by left-wing financier George Soros was speaking about rising crime in the area.
Bernalillo County district attorney Raúl Torrez (D.) is struggling to reverse a prolonged spike in murders and non-fatal shootings in Albuquerque. Torrez is also a candidate for New Mexico attorney general, with a campaign keyed to a left-wing "smart on crime" approach that advocates harsher gun control measures with greater investment in diversionary programs and consumer protection.
Soros donated $107,000 to a political action committee called New Mexico Safety & Justice, which backed Torrez's first bid for district attorney. The PAC produced and aired ads supporting Torrez and gathered survey data for the race, according to the Albuquerque Journal. His campaign outspent his primary opponent 3.5 to 1.
Tuesday's incident highlights the city's continued struggles with car thefts. Albuquerque in recent years has regularly ranked among the top five metropolitan areas nationally for car thefts. Apart from property crimes, Albuquerque surpassed its previous record for total homicides in August and could reach 100 murders this year if the rate of homicides persists.
The theft occurred on Tuesday in a parking lot outside the University of New Mexico School of Law, according to an email sent to the law school community at large and reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. The stolen vehicle in question is a 2018 maroon Hyundai Sonata. It belongs to Mary Leto Pareja, a University of New Mexico Law School professor who specializes in health law, torts, and tax law. The Sonata disappeared between 2:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Torrez's event took place in the same time frame, running from approximately 4:00 pm until 5:45 pm, according to an events page available on the law school's website.
Police are investigating the incident but did not respond to the Free Beacon's inquiries. The law school and the district attorney's office likewise did not respond to requests for comment.
Sheriff Tony Mace from neighboring Cibola County told the Free Beacon his agency has its hands full managing repeat offenders from the crime wave in surrounding counties. His officers have in recent months had multiple use-of-force encounters with suspects with warrants or open cases in several counties across the state, including Bernalillo, Torrez's jurisdiction.
"We are seeing repeat offenders committing crimes over and over again, and it is spilling out of several counties across the state into other areas like ours," Mace told the Free Beacon. "And this is where I feel bad for the prosecutors trying to keep up with the caseload. The failure to incarcerate these individuals is creating more and more casework."
There were 5,835 car thefts in the Albuquerque metropolitan area in 2020, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which translates to 15.9 car thefts per day. That figure is a decrease as compared with prior years. Yet Albuquerque, the country's 32nd-largest city by population, ranks 6th nationally in auto thefts.
The Albuquerque Police Department in August had a fatal encounter with one suspected carjacker. Two patrol officers on Aug. 15 spotted a stolen vehicle three miles from the UNM Law School campus and tracked the driver over some distance before intercepting him at a nearby Walmart.
The suspect, Eric Padilla, took off running while police were interrogating him, according to the Journal. He produced a silver handgun as he fled, prompting officers to shoot and kill him.
The gun Padilla was carrying has been linked to three other shootings.
Local authorities have made aggressive use of so-called bait cars to catch carjackers and deter would-be offenders. Police say car theft is tied up with other forms of criminality—stealing a car often being a precursor to future offenses—and they're urging Torrez to do more to ensure car thieves stay behind bars.
"We need assistance from the courts, we need assistance from prosecutors, and we have to do what's right for the people of Albuquerque," police chief Harold Medina said in remarks last month to local media. "Individuals who are in stolen cars are committing a wide variety of crime."