ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A woman with a history of refusing to leave an encampment at a city park and who was approached by Albuquerque police twice in one week was arrested Tuesday.
Police said an arrest of this type, much like a citation for setting up homeless camps on public property, is uncommon. The city’s Family and Community Services Department and community organizations will first work to get people in need connected with behavioral health services or a shelter.
“The two staff within family and community services who really are the lead folks in the community for responding to encampments on public property, will coordinate with APD as needed. So, that is definitely not their first step to bring in APD,” FCS Deputy Director Lisa Huval stated.
Online court records from March 9 state Louisa Scott was summoned for wrongful use of public property after being asked to leave Phil Chacon Park. An officer writes that she was warned twice in February, along with other people, to not set up structures, to camp, or have fires. Officers gave Scott a summons when they noticed that her so-called structure was back up after a city crew removed what was left of the camps, stating “enforcement action” was required.
Then on March 16, Scott was arrested for wrongful use of public property and for erecting a structure on park property, which consisted of three shopping carts surrounding a three-person-sized tent, according to online documents. It’s unclear how often these types of arrests are happening.
“I think any kind of citation or enforcement effort is a last resort,” APD Spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said. “We’d rather not. Our officers would rather be out patrolling and kind of dealing with more significant crimes but it is also a quality of life issue and we deal with neighborhood associations all the time and businesses who want to make sure their businesses are clean and the parks are clean.”
Records show the four others who were summoned with Scott have not been arrested. Gallegos said they complied with officers and took down their camps.
He thinks the Gateway Center homeless shelter that Mayor Tim Keller is proposing at the old Gibson Medical Center will be a long-term solution for getting people connected with housing and services in one place. Right now, a city councilor wants to give the community more time to weigh in on putting that shelter in the International District.
On Wednesday, Scott pleaded not guilty to her charges and was released. Her trial is set for April.