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‘They’re not going to be alone’: What to expect from the first-ever ‘Missing in New Mexico’ day

<i>KOAT</i><br/>According to Regina Chacon
According to Regina Chacon

By Breana Albizu

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    ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (KOAT) — An important day in the Land of Enchantment.

On Oct. 22, the New Mexico Department of Public Safety will host the first-ever “Missing in New Mexico” Day. The opportunity will bring families of missing persons together with multiple state and law enforcement agencies to offer a variety of services.

According to Regina Chacon, bureau chief for the department’s Law Enforcement Records Bureau, almost a thousand people are currently missing in the state.

For indigenous communities, the epidemic is even worse.

Despite having the fifth-largest Native American population in the nation, New Mexico has the highest number of missing and murdered cases regarding indigenous women and girls in the entire country. In 2019, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham established the New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives (MMIWR) Task Force in order to study the scope of the crisis. The group is a co-host for Saturday’s event.

“We want to let them know that they’re not going to be alone in this. That they have the support of their community,” Chacon said.

Local and state leaders are now stepping up to make a change.

At the inaugural event, loved ones of those missing will have an chance to file reports, access support services, and submit DNA records.

“When they give those DNA samples, there’s going to be a whole process where we’re going to have [the Office of the Medical Investigator], [Combined DNA Index System] administrators, [and] NAMI New Mexico,” Chacon said. ” We have a whole spectrum of individuals who will be able to answer questions.”

Those interested in attending Saturday’s event are asked to bring materials, which could provide investigators more details and information about the missing person.

Chacon said anything could help further a case.

“We’re looking for photographs, demographics, any information that they have. As far as [what they were] last seen wearing their friends, any type of friends that they may have had, any type of documentation that they feel could be helpful for law enforcement,” she said.

Once new data is compiled, family members and relatives will be introduced to officials and police agencies, in order to make important connections and help build trust among citizens and law enforcement.

Especially for those experiencing lots of grief and finding few answers.

“What we hear a lot is that family members have a hard time speaking with law enforcement about their loved ones, so we want to break that cycle. We’ll facilitate the conversations, we’ll send the information to the law enforcement agency, [and] we’ll ensure that they’re entered into [National Crime Information Center]. We’ll also make sure that we’re doing a follow-up with that law enforcement agency and that family,” Chacon said.

With the new opportunity, the bureau chief hopes that relationships can change for the better.

One case at a time.

“As it grows, people will start feeling comfortable reporting their loved ones. Feeling comfortable having a conversation and open conversations with law enforcement,” she said.

“Missing in New Mexico” Day takes place Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, or to register for the event, please visit the New Mexico Department of Indian Affairs website here.

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