BELEN — Weeks after a multi-agency law enforcement operation wrapped up in southern Valencia County, New Mexico State Police informed the Belen City Council they will continue their efforts in the Hub City.
NMSP Lt. Jeff Smith updated the council last week on the operation, saying the joint operation included officers with the Belen Police Department, Valencia County Sheriff’s Office and other federal law enforcement agencies.
After making contact with nearly 3,000 residents and business owners, more than 1,400 traffic stops and dozens of arrests from shoplifting to narcotics during the 13-day operation, Smith said much more needs to be done.
“The driver of most crime is drugs,” Smith told the council. “We have methamphetamine as the No. 1 drug in this area, then heroin. If you reduce the amount of drugs, crime will go down.”
As a result of the operation, Smith said they have been doing some undercover work in the area to help stem the flow of meth.
“It could take a while — and I’ve seen these investigations sometimes take a year,” he said. “We need to get the big fish, and we have to be patient.”
Smith said they arrested an 18-year-old “kid” who had several drugs, including 118 pills of Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever, and a hand gun. The lieutenant said the suspect didn’t want to discuss who his supplier is, and the case is now being handled by the feds.
“Overall, the operation was very successful,” Smith said. “The chief (Belen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez) and the sheriff (Sheriff Denise Vigil) were very cooperative and helped by bringing in some of the deputies.”
Smith said NMSP officers will be conducting about four or five more operations in the city of Belen in the coming weeks, and will have a “sustained effort” to help the city by having at least two officers in the city every Monday, Tuesday and Fridays until the department can get fully staffed.
Councilor Ronnie Torres thanked state police for their efforts, saying nearly everyone who came into his hair salon talked about the operation, saying they felt more secure.
“Everyone was so thankful,” Torres said. “The biggest complaint was that you were leaving.”
Councilor Wayne Gallegos said he too was happy to see so many law enforcement officers in the city.
“It was nice when you were here,” Gallegos said. “At first, some people were scared. It was great to see you guys here. It gave us a sense of security for the community.”
Councilor Frank Ortega thanked Smith and the other law enforcement officers for their help, saying they weren’t only in Belen, but throughout southern Valencia County.
“I’m just glad we were able to put the rumors to rest and we will continue to be a unified effort with state police,” said BPD Chief Victor Rodriguez. “I don’t think Valencia County has been this unified in a long time.
“On behalf of us, we appreciate your support and what you’ve done for our community,” the chief told Smith. “It was very important to see this impact. The community can rest assured that this is about making sure we provide public safety.”