ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Neighbors are afraid to step outside and can’t even enjoy their own backyards, all because of one woman who they claim is wreaking havoc in the neighborhood. KRQE Investigative Reporter Gabrielle Burkhart took their concerns and their evidence to city leaders and law enforcement.
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“You don’t work here, I’ve never seen your dirty f**** n****** a**!” The problem neighbor is heard shouting at a grocery delivery driver across the street.
Cameras captured the woman yelling obscenities at strangers and shouting threats at neighbors out on a walk. Cameras also captured the woman spraying her next-door neighbors and their home surveillance cameras with a water hose while they were outside barbecuing in their own backyard.
“Now you can go f*** yourself you!” She shouted while reaching over the backyard fence to spray her neighbors with water. Home surveillance footage shared with KRQE Investigates captures what neighbors describe as constant harassment by one woman on the block.
Lexie Hernandez owns the home next door to the problem neighbor and said she doesn’t feel safe at her own home. “Every time we’d come home, something like that would happen,” she said.
Hernandez showed KRQE surveillance footage from her backyard; a glimpse of what she and her wife said they’ve been dealing with for months. “I feel she definitely needs the help. Our community, our little neighborhood needs the help as well,” said Hernandez.
The harassment is unprovoked, she said, and Hernandez believes her neighbor suffers from mental health issues. It’s one reason KRQE is not naming the woman in this report.
But it’s not just the woman’s next-door neighbors who’ve been the target of her attacks on the block near Ladera Golf Course in northwest Albuquerque. “When somebody comes out of their house screaming and yelling at you, trying to wet you with the hose, saying vulgar, vulgar things that I can’t say out of my mouth, spitting on old people walking a dog, starting fires…,” Bette Kogut explained.
Kogut lives down the street and was asked last year to be the neighborhood Block Captain. “I asked him, well, what does a block captain do? And ‘oh, no big – nothing, send out emails, basically,” Kogut recalled. “And I said, ‘I can do that. I’m retired. But I have to tell you, this has been the most consuming thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
That’s because all of her neighbors now go to her about encounters with the problem neighbor. In an effort to get the woman and her neighbors some help, Kogut tries to document each incident and shares concerns with their local Albuquerque Police area commander.
The police do respond … a lot
“The police have been here so many times,” said Kogut. “They do come when we call. She won’t let them in.”
And that’s the other problem. Records show Albuquerque police responded to the woman’s home more than 50 times last year. “This is the Albuquerque police department. You need to come to the front door and make contact with officers. We’re not going away,” an officer is heard over an intercom in one of Hernandez’s home surveillance videos. Police officers were parked outside the problem neighbor’s home.
But in most cases, no one answers the door at the woman’s home and the police do eventually have to leave. “She has these outbursts and then she runs into her home whenever they come,” Hernandez explained.
When asked what she’d like to see happen, Hernandez replied, “I mean, something. Because there has been nothing.”
Most recently, the problem neighbor was charged with assault for reportedly throwing baseball-sized rocks at women out walking their dogs. Neighbors also filed a temporary restraining order against her.
(The video above shows woman spraying water at neighbor’s surveillance camera.)
Albuquerque Police wouldn’t interview on camera about this case, but KRQE News 13 confirmed its crisis intervention officers have responded to the woman’s home multiple times. The department sent KRQE a written statement saying in part that the state needs more mental health resources. (Full statement below)
Behavioral Health Court System
Pending battery cases are making their way through the courts. At least one case was transferred to Bernalillo County’s Behavioral Health Resource Connection Court, or BHRC.
“What we’re trying to do, I think, with all specialty courts, in general, is to address the bigger issues at hand so we stop reoffending,” said Jessica Alsup, a mental health attorney for the Metropolitan Division of the Public Defenders in Albuquerque.
While Alsup couldn’t share specifics about this case, she explained the process of BHRC. “In addition to basic needs, like housing or services, the other thing that we look at is mental health needs,” said Alsup. “So what type of counseling is appropriate for this individual? Is it behavioral health? Is it a substance abuse issue?”
Mental health court essentially pushes pause on a person’s criminal case while a case manager addresses the underlying issues. “It’s meant to be tailored to that particular individual so they can get what they need,” Alsup explained.
What happens if a person doesn’t participate in resources or fails to show up?
“If they fail to show up or something goes wrong, all that happens is the case gets unpaused and kind of actually starts from the beginning,” said Alsup. “So we go back to court. We figure something else out or even potentially trial. It just sort of depends on what happens at that point.”
The goal, she says, is to resolve conflicts like this one in a way that connects people with treatment and resources; something she argues jail time won’t do. “These things take time, and it’s just giving people a chance, I think, at this point,” said Alsup.
The Metropolitan court sent the following statement to KRQE regarding the BHRC program:
Through its continued commitment to addressing and treating the underlying causes of what brought an individual into the criminal justice system, Metropolitan Court’s Specialty Court Programs work to connect and provide those charged with petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor crimes with the needed treatment, counseling and supervision to return to our community as productive, law-abiding citizens. The Behavioral Health Resource Connection program is designed to change the response to crimes committed by people with mental illness by focusing on community based services rather than judicial system involvement. It prioritizes behavioral health treatment and access to appropriate community support. Participants who do not comply with the conditions of the voluntary program will be removed from the program and have their case(s) remanded back to the trial docket, where they could face the maximum penalties for the charges.
Neighbors in a tough spot
Neighbors say they understand the limits of police and the courts, but they worry someone will get hurt before too long. “We’ve been talking about selling the home,” Hernandez told KRQE News 13.
Finding peace in their own homes is getting tougher. “It is such a great community and great area,” said Hernandez. “And I would hate to have to leave because of this.”
The nuisance neighbor has a court hearing on Friday for violating her conditions of release. Bernalillo County Metro Court Judge Joshua J. Sanchez could decide to remove her case from the Behavioral Health Resource Connection Court and re-start her criminal case.
Albuquerque Police and the First Judicial District Attorney’s office wouldn’t comment on this case at this time. APD did send the following written statement addressing shortcomings in the system:
The Albuquerque Police Department created the Crisis Intervention Team specifically to work with individuals in the community who exhibit chronic behavior patterns that may post risks to not only themselves but possibly others.
Among the team of officers who work on the CIT, one of their main goals is to ensure that situations involving individuals in crisis are defused so that use-of-force can be avoided and proper medical attention and or a referral to the appropriate agency can be provided. The team also works closely with mental health care providers to identify deficiencies in current programs.
APD also continues to build strong partnerships with the City of Albuquerque’s newly created Community Safety Department who have assisted officers in the field taking calls for service that don’t necessarily require a police presence, but some individuals may simply need assistance and access to services and resources that ACS has been instrumental in providing.
Through Mayor Keller’s Metro Crime Initiative, his administration and public safety officials have identified that the criminal justice system is broken and there is a clear need for more assistance in behavioral and mental health care, as well as resources for individuals suffering from addiction. Through MCI, APD is proposing change in these areas through the assistance of the state legislature to help make the much needed changes to best serve the community and the state.Rebecca Atkins, Albuquerque Police Dept. Spokesperson