On the afternoon of April 25, newly elected Village of Questa Councilor Jason Gonzalez led the second meeting for Questa Community Watch, a group dedicated to organizing Questa residents against criminal activity. There were approximately 30 people in attendance, in person as well as through Zoom.
Questa Community Watch has divided the Questa area into smaller areas. Volunteer “captains” will be responsible for maintaining a peaceful vigilance in their respective regions and help deter property crime.
- Lower Embargo
- Upper Embargo
- North Kiowa
- South Kiowa
- Cabresto (most severe for crime area)
- Lower Pinabete
- Middle of Town
- Abra Road
- La Cienega
“We need a security force in Questa, we’ve been too long without a police force,” said Councilor Gonzalez at the start of the April meeting. “The Sheriff, they can do what they can but they have such a wide patrolling area that it takes them 40 minutes to get out here.” Councilor Gonzalez makes it clear that this is not a vigilante group, they are not fighting crime, but deterring crime through community action.
“Don’t believe the false narrative from The Taos News and the Sheriff that crime is down,” said one concerned resident of northern Taos County at the earlier March 21 meeting. “Crime is up in Questa.”
The Taos County Sheriff’s Office was not present at the Community Watch’s first two meetings, so the Questa del Rio News met with Sheriff Jerry Hoegrefe on April 5 to give him the opportunity to respond to this criticism.
According to Sheriff Hoegrefe, the purpose of the Village of Questa’s contractual agreement with their office was to “bridge law enforcement services so the Village can get back on their feet and reestablish their own police department.” It was never intended to be forever. “I’ve got numbers and facts and stats that will back up everything that I’m about to tell you about how much crime has been reduced… We’ve been here the last two years; Questa used to average 120 calls a month, we’re in the 45 calls a month range now. More crimes have been solved, more arrests have been made, we’ve been very attentive to everything, and I think there is a small and vocal group that has their frustrations, that’s fine. Not one of them has called me or my under-Sheriff. I was not invited to that meeting. It’s a community watch meeting, why in the world would they not invite the Sheriff?”
The full interview with Sheriff Hoegrefe is available: https://soundcloud.com/dylan-r-n-crabb/interview-taos-county-sheriff-jerry-hoegrefe.
The third Community Watch meeting was held on May 16 with Det. Fidel Cordova of the Taos Police Department in attendance, along with Mr. Isaiah Ortega with Taos County Crime Stoppers community group. This program offers anonymous methods for the public to report information regarding unsolved crimes and fugitives. It is the public, police, and private sector working together for a safer Taos County.
Mr. Ortega spoke to a crowd of approximately 20 people about the importance of sharing information as a good witness to crimes and how photos and video footage help build strong cases against alleged criminals. Crime Stoppers’ mobile app, P3 Tips, was mentioned as a useful resource.
Mayor John Ortega also made an appearance at the meeting and informed the crowd that the Village of Questa will soon be placing advertisements for a new police chief.
The Community Watch meetings are scheduled for the third Monday of every month. The next meeting is June 20, 6 pm, at the Vida del Norte Coalition office, 62 Highway 38. Contact Jason Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org; (575) 741-5013.