County law enforcement prioritizing crimes against people over property as COVID-19 cases rise

Justin Garcia
Las Cruces Sun-News
Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department headquarters at 845 N. Motel Blvd. in Las Cruces, N.M., seen on Monday, August 10, 2020.

LAS CRUCES - Citing a rise in COVID-19 cases among staff, the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office said that investigators will be focusing less on minor crimes while staff members are ill. 

Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart told the Sun-News that several people in her department — including detectives and support staff — had tested positive for COVID-19 and were displaying symptoms of the disease. 

On Jan 7, Stewart wrote on Facebook: "Due to a rising number of COVID positives in our Criminal Investigations Division, we are prioritizing follow up on felony cases only. Thank you for your patience."

"We're constantly weighing these things anyway. It's just this is an added burden for us," Stewart told the Sun-News on Monday.

Stewart's Facebook post comes as the county grapples with a resurgent virus. Last week, Doña Ana County set a new record for the highest number of cases in a single day since the pandemic began. 

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"We're kind of experiencing what everybody else on the planet is," Stewart said. 

Since Dec. 22, Stewart said that two detectives and two support staff, including an evidence technician, had tested positive for COVID-19. 

"I am expecting more tomorrow," she said. 

Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart addresses the media during a press conference on Dec. 22, 2021

Stewart said that county residents who report property crimes without obvious leads may not hear back from a detective right away. With some detectives and support staff sick and symptomatic with COVID-19, DASO's resources will be shifted to crimes against people. 

"Every case is getting worked," she said. "It's just right now we're gonna have to prioritize felony cases."

Stewart said that of the nearly 200 employees in the sheriff's office, all but five were vaccinated.

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COVID-19 was the number one killer of law enforcement officers in 2020 and 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page which tracks police deaths across the U.S.

Justin Garcia is a public safety reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at JEGarcia@lcsun-news.com or on Twitter @Just516garc.

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