ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The city invested more than $200-thousand in security upgrades and a fence at a neighborhood park, but people who live nearby say the park is already filled with problems again, including a homeless camp. Neighbors living near Lavaland Park say they’re scared to even go into their own backyards because the homeless people camping out at the park intimidate them.
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Lavaland Park on Coors, north of Central isn’t the most inviting park. “They do drugs and stuff there, I stay away from there,” said a local neighbor who asked to remain anonymous.
Seven hundred feet of wrought iron fencing surrounds it, and a turnstile gate that is supposed to make it impossible for anyone to enter the park from the busy street to the west. “What that does is it controls the access from Coors,” said David Flores, the Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation Department. “You can exit, but you can’t enter from Coors.”
The new fence and turnstile gate were part of $206-thousand in upgrades to the park last year. But, the fancy gate isn’t stopping anyone from entering. “If it’s gated like that, why is everybody coming in and they bring their big sacks or whatever,” said the neighbor. “It’s ugly.”
Flores says the turnstile gate is broken, and that’s why people are able to get into the park, even after hours. “They’ve actually compromised that turnstile, there’s an arm that they’ve removed,” Flores said.
The neighbor says she’s afraid to go in her backyard because the park, which is on the other side of her wall is always overrun with the homeless. “I’m a prisoner in my own home, I’m afraid to go out there,” she said.
While sleeping in a city park overnight is against the law, neighbors say camps can be set up for weeks before the city does anything about it. “It’s been an issue for a while, but I’d say this last year it’s gotten really bad,” she said.
Flores says they’re waiting for the parts to repair the broken turnstile gate. He says once those are installed they’re going to make further adjustments to try and prevent this problem in the future. The timed gate on the east side of the park automatically locks at night, at ten o’clock. It opens again at six in the morning.