ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Cars parked at a commuter train overflow parking lot in Albuquerque have become prime targets for thieves, according to passengers.
However, officials at the New Mexico Railrunner Express said they are focused on passenger safety at the train platform and have no plans to increase security at the overflow parking lot at the Los Ranchos/Journal Center stop in Albuquerque’s North Valley.
“It’s much like if you were to go shopping at the mall,” said Augusta Meyers, Railrunner spokesperson. “People are told to park at their own risk and that’s basically the same at the Railrunner station parking lots.”
The Los Ranchos/Journal Center station is a hub of activity early in the morning and the spaces near the platform fill up quickly, said Angie Bartok, an Albuquerque resident who frequently takes the Railrunner to her job in Santa Fe. That means many passengers must park in the overflow lot across the street, she said.
“Two weeks ago, I had my actual car stolen in the dirt lot,” Bartok said. “[I] never, never would have expected that.”
Albuquerque police officers found Bartok’s car abandoned at an Albuquerque-area park Thursday, she said.
Other passengers had similar complaints.
“I found my gas tank had been punctured and all my gas stolen,” said David Wahler, another Railrunner passenger.
Jonathan Flores’ vehicle also was targeted.
“My car battery was stolen and it was actually a brand-new battery,” Flores said. “I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ ”
The Los Ranchos/Journal Center station is under 24-hour video surveillance, and the cameras occasionally catch criminals in the act. For example, in March, the cameras caught a group of teen vandals tagging a wall near the platform.
However, those cameras are focused on the platform, and while they scan the overflow parking lot across the street from the platform, they are constantly moving, Meyers said. But security is not the Railrunner’s responsibility, it’s law enforcement’s, she said.
“The cameras are mostly there and positioned for safety at the platform,” Meyers said.
Sgt. Aaron Williamson, a spokesperson for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, said his department has received two reports of stolen cars at the Los Ranchos/Journal Center station so far this year, along with several burglary reports.
That is not unusual, he said, though cameras could help deter some of that crime.
“This is not a high traffic area, so we don’t have a lot of extra eyes in the area to alert law enforcement,” Williamson said. “We have officers directed to … if they’re writing a report, come in here and park just because of the problems that have occurred in here.”
Several passengers told News 13 they didn’t report break-ins to police. Williamson urged passengers to file police reports so officers and deputies have an accurate picture of crime rates in particular areas and can adjust patrols as necessary.
One way or another, Railrunner passengers who board at the Los Ranchos/Journal Center stop would like to see something done to improve security at the station.
“There are so many commuter passengers, and that during the day there’s a lull here,” Bartok said. “I really feel that there needs to be greater security here.”
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