Updated: October 11, 2020 10:50 PM
Created: October 11, 2020 10:48 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Coronado Park is considered the heart of Albuquerque’s homeless problem. Located near I-40 and 2nd street, it comes with a lot of other problems too – including drug use, violence and mental health issues.
More than two years of police records reveal at least 120 times police, fire and other emergency services were needed at Coronado Park between January 2018 and June 2020.
“That park is not safe. It’s not safe for the people experiencing homelessness, it’s certainly not safe for any other neighborhood residents to go there,” said Doreen McKnight who is president of the Wells Park Neighborhood Association and has lived in the area for 10 years.
“This year alone in 2020 there were three homicides at Coronado Park. In 2019, a disabled woman was raped there and in 2018 there was a murder,” said McKnight.
Police 911 logs reveal a variety of other issues.
In February 2019, police investigated a stabbing after a fight broke out at the park.
One month before the stabbing, police responded to a call after a woman said she was suicidal, telling police on lapel camera video that she had previously made attempts to overdose on meth. Officers then took her to get help.
In 2018, the KOB 4 Investigates team used undercover cameras at Coronado Park which revealed illegal drinking, drug deals and people shooting up drugs in broad daylight.
The City of Albuquerque sees similar problems in other areas – in some cases, the city has taken legal action, even demolishing homes and building that have been deemed a nuisance problem.
McKnight wonders why the city hasn’t treated Coronado Park the same way they’ve treated those other problem areas.
“If there was a private property that was picking up these kinds of 911 call numbers and these kinds of 311 call numbers and the types of criminal activity that’s going on there, there’s no way that the city would put up with that,” said McKnight.
City councilor Isaac Benton who represents the area said “in the past, legal action has been taken against the city when we did try to remove street people from, for instance, the 4th street mall downtown.”
“I think in general there’s a reluctance and it’s understandable… not just going after an individual homeless person who are in the park, even if they’ve set up some kind of small shelter or something,” said Benton. “But it’s a fine line between that and getting out of control.”
4 Investigator Nathan O’Neal: Do you believe that the city is doing as much as they can to address that problem?
Councilor Benton: “Yes, I do. We’re doing as much as we can but that’s not enough. So that sounds like a contradiction but it’s not. As a community, we have to accept that we’re going to have to spend a lot of money to tackle this problem and a lot of effort – and we’re in the midst of that right now.”
Coronado Park is a central hub for the homeless – a designated pick up and drop off site for the West Side Shelter. McKnight wants that to change.
“I think that the city really needs to make an effort to invest in that park… re-evaluate what the parks purposes, reengage people in that property, really activate the property,” said McKnight.
The problems at Coronado Park are complex and layered – and many city leaders concede, there is no simple fix.
“I think we need to do more,” said Carol Pierce, the director for Albuquerque’s Family and Community Services department, adding that stakeholders are working to develop a long-term plan for the area.
“There’s no question that we need more emergency shelter beds that are centrally located and what we know works and the community is asking for is smaller shelters,” said Pierce, adding later: “We’re not talking a 300-bed facility, we’re talking smaller shelters.”
“I remain optimistic because of who Albuquerque is and the neighbors and the businesses -- because together we can do this and we can do better,” said Pierce.
However, some are still skeptical.
“I don't know what the city's long term plan is but it definitely can't be just kicking people out of the park every day,” said McKnight of the neighborhood association.
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