Taking Back Albuquerque is in Your Hands

By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

Joy Junction Inc.

take albuquerque backAfter two shootings by repeat offenders that have shaken our city to its collective core, police union officials say it’s time to “take back our city” and show support for Albuquerque police officers by flying blue and white ribbons.

“Put them on your homes. Put them on light poles. Put them everywhere,” local media reported vice president Shaun Willoughby of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association said during a recent news conference.

In addition, New Mexico leaders are talking about way to reform New Mexico’s judicial system after the shootings.

On Oct. 20, Albuquerque police said Tony Torrez shot and killed 4-year-old Lilly Garcia. The next day, APD officer Daniel Webster was shot in the face and upper body during a traffic stop.

Tony Torrez, the man charged with shooting and killing Lilly Garcia, 4, in a road rage incident, has a lengthy criminal history and has been in and out of jail for years.

Davon Lymon, accused of shooting Officer Daniel Webster, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the beating and shooting of a man of 2001. Lymon got 11 1/2 years in prison and racked up more serious charges since being released.

But how do you, as an average, always busy and often financially strapped Albuquerque citizen, help reclaim your city?

Just as there’s more to helping the homeless than turning the entire responsibility over to the government or to private entities such as Joy Junction, there’s more to taking back our city than keeping violent repeat offenders behind bars.

What can we do so that each of us feels we have a personal stake in our city’s ownership? While there are some things-like changing the law-we can’t do ourselves (lobbying and making calls to legislators notwithstanding), there are plenty of other things we can accomplish right now.

We can each make a difference right where we are. Some are already doing that. Two young sisters built a memorial for Lilly Garcia.

A local business franchise owner donated 100 percent of the company’s proceeds on Monday to Webster’s family. 

But what can you do in general to help “take back” Albuquerque and improve the quality of life in our city?

Here are a few ideas. Take a deep breath and ignore people who cut you off while driving (yes, I know it’s hard), perhaps check on an elderly neighbor you haven’t seen for a few days, volunteer at a senior center or a homeless shelter, smile at and give a bottle of water to a panhandler.

Here’s a more controversial idea. Start listening to points of view with which you don’t agree. Too many of us only socialize with people, or listen to media that reinforce our already fervently held opinions.

Some Joy Junction guests also had some great ideas. There were suggestions to lend a helping hand whenever possible, caring and getting involved so that something good comes out of these horrible incidents and for our community to “help each other and stop being self absorbed.’

The outpouring of sentiment in these cases reminds me a little of what happened in the days following the terrible attacks of 9/11. For a while, politicians rose above their partisan divisions and talked to each other instead of about each other.

Churches were also packed. Sadly, in the ensuing days, all that unity (and church attendance) waned. While perhaps a metaphorical mile wide, it seems it was only an inch deep.

Let’s make sure the same thing doesn’t happen in Albuquerque-our city. It doesn’t belong to the repeat thugs, repeat offenders or politicians. It belongs to us-you and me. There’s hard work ahead, but your commitment will be the catalyst for significant social change.

By the time the shock of these incidents fade, let’s make sure that coming together as a city is a way of life. The time to start taking back your part of Albuquerque is now-right now. That way we won’t have to wait for another tragedy to shock us into action.