No trespassing signs pop up along I-40
March 14, 2018 10:26 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- No trespassing signs have started appearing along Interstate 40, but not everyone is following the rules.
The City of Albuquerque's Safe City Strike Force is attempting to address public complaints about people blocking sidewalks and rights-of-way near the interstate. The New Mexico Department of Transportation put the signs up approximately a month ago.
The signs cite Bernalillo County Ordinance 87-4 warning anyone, homeless or not, that they're not allowed to loiter along the highway. Timothy Puente survives by panhandling on the Wyoming exit off Interstate 40, collecting a few bucks at a time in an empty water jug.
"It's almost like fishing,” Puente said.
Diabetic, Puente's legs are swollen and filled with fluid. Wheelchair-bound, he said he can’t work.
"Eventually the antibiotics aren't going to work anymore and I’m going to lose my legs,” Puente said. "They hurt very badly."
The new signs are a sign to Puente that he is not welcome.
"It doesn't allow us a place to stay because we're going to have to sleep somewhere," he said.
Some citizens feel the panhandlers are a road hazard.
"I truly believe they shouldn't be there because they can get hit by a car," Albert Leo said.
Other people pity familiar roadside faces like Puente's.
"They're people too,” Helen Santiago said.
"I don't think it's fair for the homeless because they don't have a place to stay,” Julian Aviln said.
Some panhandlers believe it will push the already desperate to be daring.
"Because it's going to go from people panhandling to people stealing," Charles Martice said.
Puente knows not everyone will roll down his or her window. He also has nowhere else to go, so he said he doesn’t care what a sign says.
"I don't know if the city is intending to enforce that kind of crap," Puente said.
The City of Albuquerque passed an ordinance that makes it illegal for drivers to interact with pedestrians last November. Due to a pending American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, police are not enforcing it. As of Wednesday evening, Albuquerque Police Department spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said police have not issued any city citations.
Updated: March 14, 2018 10:26 PM
Created: March 14, 2018 08:57 PM
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