ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After some recent high-profile crimes at Albuquerque parks, the city is talking about where it’s spending more than a million dollars of funds earmarked for parked safety.
Mayor Tim Keller and the Albuquerque City Council earmarked $1.75 million dollars for “park safety” in the most recent city budget, which runs through June 2020.
“Improving safety and security in our city parks is really our top priority right now,” said Dave Simon, director of Albuquerque’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Park safety has been a talking point with city leaders for several years, dating back to Mayor Richard Berry’s administration.
Following a 2015 shooting at Los Altos Park near Lomas and Wyoming that left one person dead and six others wounded, Berry launched a special park patrol with two uniformed security guards in 2016.
“We’re taking a totally different new, proactive and better approach,” said Simon, referring to the current status of the city’s park security plan.
Of the earmarked $1.75 million dollars, Simon says two-thirds of that money will be spent on physical security upgrades at parks.
“We’ve identified a lot of parks where we could make some physical safety and security improvements and we’re pricing out many of those projects and then we’re going to get after it,” said Simon.
Veterans Memorial Park near Gibson and Louisiana is one of a few parks where the city will install new fences, lights and gates. The city is also looking at similar improvements at Aquatic Centers and looking at adding lighting to trailheads in the heights.
In reference to the Berry Administration’s park security guard program, the city says it isn’t funding the old park guards anymore, opting to put money toward sworn law enforcement.
“At the present time, the smartest thing to do is to work with APD,” said Simon.
The Parks & Rec Department is aiming to use more $550,000 to pay for APD officers’ overtime.
“We’re only going to be paying for overtime hours when officers are in parks and helping us out,” said Simon.
Simon also told KRQE News 13 that he was not concerned about the potential for the overtime officers being pulled away from city parks to respond to other nearby emergency calls.
So far, the city says it’s begun police patrols by adding a daily presence at Coronado Park near I-40 and Second Street.