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Santa Fe Police Department Follows LEAD ofSeattle Drug Treatment Program

From left to right: Det. Roberto Rodriguez, Capt. Jerome Sanchez, Det. Casey Salazar, Monica Ault (Drug Policy Alliance), District Attorney Angela ‘Spence’ Pacheco and Asst. District Attorney Jason Lidyard

A program designed to assist low-level drug offenders by offering them the opportunity to turn their lives around and divert into a wraparound, comprehensive treatment program instead of jail is one step closer to implementation in Santa Fe.

Three members from Santa Fe Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit were in Seattle, Washington earlier this week taking an up close look at that city’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. Santa Fe will be the second city in the nation to launch LEAD.

The goal is to identify nonviolent, opiate (pills and heroin) offenders who would most likely benefit from all-encompassing drug treatment services instead of incarceration. Statistics show a majority of the city’s property crimes are perpetrated by drug users, because they are trying fund their drug habits. The Santa Fe City Council unanimously approved the program in July with the belief that by helping repeat offenders, the city will be able to break the devastating cycle of criminals who are run through the judicial system over and over again.

A cost benefit analysis conducted by the Santa Fe Community Foundation showed the LEAD program could cut the city’s current law enforcement, jail, judicial and medical costs of the repeat incarceration in half, saving taxpayers close to one million dollars each year.

The officers were in Washington for four days and studied Seattle’s program closely. They returned with a better understanding of which candidates are most likely to succeed in the LEAD program, how to launch such the program and what exactly is needed in terms of wrap around services.

Santa Fe City Councilors have committed $300,000 in initial funding, ($100,000 this fiscal year and $200,000 for FY 14/15) and the city’s LEAD task force is looking for other governmental and private sources to help pay for continued costs. The goal is to have LEAD in place by the middle of 2014. Seattle’s program was implemented in 2011.