When to call the substation instead of 242-COPS, who patrols the bosque, the Coronado Park homicides, and more

Part two of our Q & A series with APD

ALSO: One chaotic night of riots, zero arrests
EDITOR'S NOTE: Last Thursday we kicked off a two-part series putting your questions to Josh Brown, APD's top official for greater Downtown and the North Valley. Part one is here if you need to catch up, and the series concludes below.
We had two questions concerning how to handle homeless people in residential settings. The first concerns people who look to be sleeping in the grassy median on Laguna Boulevard in the Huning Castle neighborhood. Neighbors hoping to get these folks some help have asked who to call about it, since 242-COPS, the police non-emergency line, doesn't seem appropriate. What's the best thing to do in these circumstances?

242-COPS is indeed the right number, Brown said, adding that Downtown area officers are very experienced at dealing with homeless people and directing them toward help.

"Our biggest thing is getting these people connected to resources," he said. "We're not just there to kick people out and move them around."

Police may not always be the ones to respond to such calls in the future, however. The city is in the process of creating the Albuquerque Community Safety Department, which is envisioned as a first-responder unit that will send social workers, counselors, and others to deal with issues like this instead of officers, but that is still in the process of getting off the ground. (Mayor Tim Keller's initial budget proposal for the department got a decidedly mixed reception from city councilors.)

But while officers can certainly offer help, there's no law preventing homeless people from spending time on the Laguna Median, Brown said. Because it's a city park, so long as they don't stay past closing time (10 p.m.) or set up a tent or other encampment, they can stay.

(The city also operates a homeless assistance helpline, 768-HELP, that will connect people to services, though it seems to be set up with the idea that vulnerable people or those who know them well will make the initial call.)
What's the best thing to do if we see a presumably-homeless person using an abandoned or vacant house for shelter?

Using 242-COPS is again the best strategy here, Brown said. Assuming there's a posted no trespassing sign and a complaint from the property owner, police can remove people. They can also work with city code enforcement staffers to board up buildings to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the first place. Persistently troubled properties might also attract the attention of ADAPT, a special program focused on abandoned and dilapidated buildings. Police calls are a prime way that properties get onto ADAPT's radar.
Traffic on my dead-end street has increased exponentially and I suspect there may be some illegal activity. I have no hard evidence but hate the added traffic. What's the best thing to do?

For ongoing cases that might require some kind of formal plan to deal with - as opposed to a one-time call for service - Brown recommends phoning up the Valley Area Command's substation at (505) 761-8800. Do that and he and his lieutenants can come up with a "more tailored response."

I do not know how to report possible drug dealing going on in the neighborhood. We see the same truck, at the same time of day, go down to a house and within a minute drive back up the road. Is there a number and/or web site to give tips?

This is another ongoing issue probably best handled by the substation, Brown said. Anything you can collect in terms of descriptions or times could be helpful, he added.

In 2018 and 2019, the Journal's homicide tracker logged one murder in or around Coronado Park. But this summer, there were three homicides in as many months (May, June, and July). What's going on?

Brown thinks it stems from encampments and COVID. The pre-pandemic routine was to clear out any campers when the park closed for the night, but that was suspended during the lockdown.

The subsequent increase in camping led to a concentration of narcotics trafficking and violent activity, Brown said, setting the table for the homicides. 

"Since that has happened we've taken a zero-tolerance policy on camping in the park," Brown said. Bike officers have also increased their patrols in the area and additional lighting for the park is forthcoming, he said.
How do you approach patrolling in the bosque?

While police certainly wind up in the bosque from time to time, Brown said, they generally defer to officers from the city's Open Space Division who takes care of various parcels of land around the metro area including the bosque. KOB had this profile of the open space officers last year.

We've heard some complaints at meetings around greater Downtown that officers don't stay in the area long enough before moving to other parts of town. Is the Valley Area Command a popular place for cops to work or do they generally try to leave when they get enough seniority?

Once a year, officers are allowed to "bid" for other work assignments around town and they are awarded based on seniority. Some officers end up leaving the Valley Area, but Brown said the rate isn't appreciably different than other parts of town. Senior leadership has been stable since he came on board late last year, he added, and he knows of officers who have been around for decades.
Police have made no arrests over Downtown core riots
Interim Police Chief Harold Medina told the City Council recently that even after more than four months and a review of 40 hours worth of recordings of the May 31-June 1 unrest, no arrests have been made.

"As it stands right now we've generated no solid suspects," Medina said, adding that the case was still open.

City Councilor Isaac Benton, who represents greater Downtown, found this difficult to swallow: "I have to say that I'm kind of astounded that not one arrest was made," he told the interim chief, noting that some people were caught inside the KiMo Theater, which suffered extensive damage.

None of the KiMo suspects were detained, Medina said, because they fled out the back door.
Downtown Albuquerque News covers greater Downtown, which we generally define as the area created by I-40, the Rio Grande, and the railroad tracks. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. To subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do, click here. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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