ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Announcing ramped up efforts to enforce the state’s Public Health Order and mask-wearing mandate, Mayor Tim Keller says will use city security guards and other inspectors for enforcement while also putting local business in charge. The announcement came during a news conference Wednesday morning where the Mayor revealed a new emergency declaration more than four months into the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new declaration seemingly takes a greater step toward enforcement as COVID-19 cases have spiked in Bernalillo County through late June and early July. At a news conference earlier this week, Keller said the city is merely warning people found out of compliance with the state’s mask mandate.
During Wednesday’s news conference, the Mayor said people on city property found in violation of the state’s public health order or mask mandate will be asked to leave or forcibly removed under criminal trespass law. That includes outdoor environments like the city’s Botanic Gardens and bike trails, enclosed mobile spaces like city buses and large indoor buildings like the Albuquerque Sunport. Residents who refuse to wear a face-covering at the Sunport will not be allowed on the property, including both indoor and outdoor spaces.
“Remember we are just after compliance, we’re not trying to punish anyone, we’re not trying to shame anyone,” Keller said. “This is a situation where we just want you to wear a mask, we’re not going to claim that we’re health experts or we know better than you, we just know its the right thing to do right now.”
According to the city’s latest declaration, the city is also restricting out-of-state visitors from being on city property or using city facilities. That includes the Botanic Garden, Tingley Beach and the city bus service. The order describes visitors “may be required to demonstrate residency by producing a valid New Mexico driver’s license or ID card,” a vehicle registration, federal documents, utility bills or military identification that would confirm state residency.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham stated in a press conference on July 9, that due to an increase in COVID-19 cases across the state, masks will be mandatory in all public settings except when eating, drinking, or swimming.
Keller says in Albuquerque, authorized city enforcement staff will ask people caught without masks to put one on. If they don’t have a mask, Keller says the city employee enforcing the mandate should also be able to offer one.
For its enforcement staff, Mayor Keller announced Wednesday the city is “cross deputizing” around 75 city employees. Those employees, Keller says, will be legally able to enforce the state health order and mask mandate.
According to the emergency declaration, those employees include city employed security guard and employees city’s Code Enforcement, Open Space, Environmental Health Department, Parking Enforcement and Fire Marshal’s Office. Violators of the city’s are can be subject to a $100 fine according to Mayor Keller.
On a technical level, the city says a city-issued citation is known as “notice of violation.” A spokeswoman for Mayor Tim Keller, Alicia Manzano told KRQE News 13 in a statement, “The notice of violation from the non law enforcement departments would be referred to the State Police or APD for citation.”
“If someone is walking down the street, without a mask, I’m sure if any of these folks have time, they might nicely remind them,” Keller said. “But again, that’s not the nexus of inside, close proximity, folks from out of state, that’s who we’re targeting.”
The Mayor says businesses are also now required to enforce the state’s health order and face covering mandate, or risk closure.
“Historically, we’ve had to have somebody out there trying to get people to wear face masks, that also changes today, it is now the onus of the businesses to enforce the mask order or we will close the business,” Keller said. “It allows businesses to say, no shirt, no shows, no mask, no service, so they now have the legal authority to say that straight up, and they can blame the public health order, it’s not about them, but know that if they’re not enforcing that, we will just shut them down.”
Mayor Tim Keller’s Director of Communications, Matt Ross provided the following statement about the city’s new enforcement plan:
“The City of Albuquerque will be utilizing staff from non-law enforcement departments to issue notices of violation to individuals or businesses not complying with the State’s Public Health Order. They will also be able to shut businesses down for public health reasons in the same way that those departments can close facilities that do not meet the safety requirements of other codes, and enforce any other non-criminal aspects of the emergency order. Should a citation with a fine be necessary, New Mexico State Police or the Albuquerque Police Department would be called to the scene to issue the citation in that instance.”Matt Ross, Director of Communications, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s Office