Briefing:
  • Mayor telegraphs crackdown on parking lots, but manager says a faster police response would be more helpful
  • Another park is fenced off following homelessness issues - this time in Barelas
  • Detective DAN: Is the Crossroads Motel still in business?
Mayor telegraphs crackdown on parking lots, but manager says a faster police response would be more helpful
Mayor Tim Keller said that lots at both Sixth and Central and Third and Central, among others, are on the city's radar.
Calling two Downtown core parking lots "the primary locations of crime" in the city center, Mayor Tim Keller warned last week that he might work to turn them into areas for food trucks, press for the regulation of when people can come in and out, or even consider "closing those lots."

"That is in the brainstorming phase right now but I want to let you know that we're going to focus on those and we are reaching out to the owners of those lots," he told reporters last Tuesday. "We are going to first work with individuals that own properties that are drivers of crime and if they don't work with us we will use a much stronger tool."

Lots with uncooperative owners would be placed under the jurisdiction of the Abandoned and Dilapidated Abatement Property Team (ADAPT), he said, an initiative that convenes a team of city officials - including legal, code enforcement, police, and fire authorities - to focus on a property and generally keep it under the city's thumb (DAN, 11/19/20).

Backing for such efforts could potentially come from criminal nuisance provisions in city code, which specify that property owners who "fail to prevent" lawless behavior are themselves breaking the law. But the ordinance also exempts a property owner who "takes all reasonable and available steps to terminate the public nuisance activity," among other measures.

Particularly since the onset of the pandemic, the two lots have been the site of rowdy gatherings, shootings, and in August, a homicide. But they are by no means alone in playing host to illegal activity: Another homicide earlier this year took place at a parking structure at First and Central managed by the city itself.

The mayor's announcement came as a shock to Neal Greenbaum, the Albuquerque market president for Premium Parking, which manages the lot at Third, most of the lot at Sixth that spans an entire square block, and roughly 15 other lots in the Downtown core. He is all too aware of the problems at parking lots, having written two letters warning about them to an array of city officials last May.

"We have a serious problem with troublemakers who treat Downtown Albuquerque like their playground at the expense of the rest of us," he wrote. "They are an intimidating group who park/drive illegally and unsafely and have unregistered vehicles, many of which do not even have license plates."

Things have gotten much better since the summer of 2021, Greenbaum told DAN last week, and he credits APD with moving to get a handle on the problem, but he said slow response times still put him and employees charged with enforcing parking lot rules (he summed them up as "pay, park, go enjoy yourself, but don't hang out here) in impossible situations.

He said he frequently confronts groups of people who are hanging out in the lots and drinking openly - sometimes without even paying their parking fees. They have occasionally pulled guns on his staffers and more often refuse to leave when asked. When told police will be called, they don't budge.

That's where police response times come in: "Realistically it could be up to an eight-hour wait," Greenbaum said, while conceding that is more often closer to 2-4 hours. "The people hanging out are the ones who know there are zero consequences."

Despite being taken off guard by the mayor's announcement, however, Greenbaum said he is happy to talk to the city about new security strategies. He said he is presently negotiating to place food trucks in the lots, one item Keller had mentioned, but that the city has not yet approached him with other ideas.

Thomas Keleher, who is part of the family that owns the lot at Third and Central, added that "there has never been, to the best of my knowledge, something the city has asked us to do that we have not done."

For the Keleher family, that includes contributing $15,000 to the fund for TEAM, the Downtown policing initiative funded by donations (DAN, 9/20/22).

Keller's crackdown warning also includes motels across the city he said were "drivers of violent crime," singling out multiple "Motel 6s" and Motel 1, which is located near Candelaria and University. But he had more favorable things to say about Downtown core bars and nightclubs, which are sometimes the previous stop for people who get into violent altercations in parking lots.

"There have been times when the city worked to shut down different clubs and bars. Right now actually - fortunately - we have no particular issue with any particular club or bar," he said. "The altercation, which is legally what matters, has been occurring in parking lots." 
Another park is fenced off following homelessness issues - this time in Barelas
Hazeldine Park is located on Third near Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Hazeldine Park, one of the Barelas neighborhood's two smaller "pocket parks," was recently put off limits to the public "to mitigate illegal activity," city spokeswoman Franchesca Perdue said, making it the second park to be fenced off in the 87102 zip code this year.

But there is no indication that - as with Coronado Park - the city is considering turning into something other than a public amenity: "[The] Parks and Recreation Department is evaluating and planning next steps to increase safety and security and improve public use," Perdue said. "Options could include better fencing, gates, lighting, and other measures." 

The fence will come down only "after next steps are identified in conjunction with the neighborhood and any projects are complete," she added.

Hazeldine Park features a basketball court and a picnic shelter, but most of its surface is either concrete or bare patches of ground.

APD Valley Area Commander Nick Wheeler said last week that the park had lately been the site of a substantial amount of illegal camping, including the building of crude structures rather than the more commonly-seen tents. He was also aware of reports of possible drug use in the area.

Barelas Neighborhood Association President Lisa Padilla said she had seen both in the park as well. As for possible additions or renovations, "The neighborhood could really use an exercise island with outdoor exercise equipment," she said. "I would love to see someone get creative with it."
Detective DAN: Is the Crossroads Motel still in business?
On one recent evening, just two cars were in the parking lot.
Alert Reader Lindsay writes in:

We were wondering if the Crossroads Motel is still in business. Every time we pass it, it seems there is one car - maybe two cars - parked there. I can't imagine how that motel is able to stay in business.

The short answer is yes, it is still renting out rooms - for between $60 and $80 per night. The woman who answered the phone wasn't much interested in giving out information, including her name, but did allow that many of the budget motel's customers simply don't have cars. She also said that the empty lot could be a result of guests leaving for business elsewhere.
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