ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Mayor Tim Keller says the condition of the homeless encampment at Coronado park is out of control.
“We have concerns obviously about rampant narcotics trafficking again this is different than a singular encampment in an arroyo. This is about organized trafficking of narcotics, and we have to do something about that,” said the mayor at a press conference Tuesday.
APD says there have been almost a thousand calls for service at the park in the last year and a half. There have also been five murders in the past few years. That’s what the mayor says is behind Monday’s announcement that the park will close indefinitely next month.
But it wasn’t clear in the announcement where the homeless would go. “We have housing vouchers. We have beds available now. It’s their choice and it’s still their choice. You cannot force people and you cannot arrest them,” said Keller.
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People in the area are now worried they’ll see even more tents in the neighborhoods around the park. They’re also worried about the next chapter of the park.
“Although I’m somewhat excited about hearing the news about cleaning up the park. My concern is they’re just going to turn around and condemn it and reopen it as a safe zone,” said Randy Baker, Rio Bravo Brewing Company Owner.
Businesses in the area say it makes their customers uncomfortable and hope there will be a change. “This is an issue that has been ongoing for several years. We were involved in a neighborhood business group that was not getting any results. And all of us have been effected by Coronado park,” said Mitch Taylor of TP Pump, a nearby business.
The mayor mentioned three options for the site: reopen the park, redevelop the area into something else or use it as a “safe space” homeless camp, which Keller says will have more rules set in place. However, there is not a set timeline for the city’s plans yet.
The mayor says people at the camp have been surveyed and some of them are interested in staying if it eventually becomes a city sanctioned homeless camp. Right now the idea of setting up a sanctioned homeless camp is on the books in Albuquerque, but there is a fight in city council to overturn the new law.