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 30-35 people in attendance, in-person as well as through the computer application Zoom. The meeting briefly summarized, discussed at the previous meeting on March 21 (“No Trespass”signs at entrances, cameras, civilian patrols for the purpose of maintaining active presence in high crime areas, the importance of being a good witness by making detailed and accurate reports for law enforcement, etc.) then moved onto local appointments.
“We need a security force in Questa, we’ve been too long without a police force,” said Councilor Gonzalez at the start of the 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.”
Questa Community Watch has divided up the Questa area into its regional neighborhoods listed on their meeting agenda and the 4/25 meeting saw the appointment of “captains” for each of those neighborhoods. The captains will be responsible for maintaining a peaceful vigilance in their respective regions and do what they can to help deter property crimes. Councilor Gonzalez wants to make it clear that this is not a vigilante group, they are not fighting crime but deterring crime. The mission of Questa Community Watch is to create a network of communication between Questa residents to assist each other in protecting their property and they implore members to avoid direct confrontations with criminals. Everyone at the meeting was in agreement that Cabresto Road is the most severe area for crime in Questa.
The neighborhoods of Questa identified by Community Watch are as follows:
- Lower Embargo
- Upper Embargo
- North Kiowa
- South Kiowa
- Lower Pinabete
- Middle of Town
- Abra Road
- La Cienega
The Taos County Sheriff’s Office was not present at the Community Watch’s first two meetings although Councilor Gonzalez intended to have the Sheriff in attendance, so the Questa del Rio News met with Sheriff Jerry Hoegrefe on April 5 to give him an opportunity to respond to the criticism expressed towards the Office.
“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 3/21 meeting. “Crime is up in Questa.”
“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,” Sheriff Hoegrefe told the Questa News in our 4/5 interview. “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?”
Sheriff Hoegrefe goes on in the interview expressing his disappointment with some of the rhetoric he heard coming out of the recent mayoral election in Questa saying he “felt like the topic of the platform if you will became a target with the Sheriff’s Office being a target of that. It’s not appreciated.”
According to Sheriff Hoegrefe, the purpose of the Village of Questa’s contractual agreement with the Sheriff”s 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.
The full interview with Sheriff Hoegrefe is available at the following web address: <https://soundcloud.com/dylan-r-n-crabb/interview-taos-county-sheriff-jerry-hoegrefe>.
The next Community Watch meeting is scheduled for May 16, 6:00 PM, at the Vida del Norte headquarters on HWY 38.