Downtown Albuquerque businesses say vandalism is the price to pay

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Vandalism around downtown Albuquerque is nothing new. But in the last few days, people have seen some pretty unusual damage.

The newly-renovated county building at Alvarado Square is going to stay closed through Wednesday after someone fired shots through the windows. County employees barely moved in about two months ago.

But some business neighbors welcomed them to the club. They’re dealing with vandalism too. Some businesses said it’s the price of doing business in downtown Albuquerque.

One business said it wasn’t gunshots for them, but one person used a rock to break through their Plexiglas.

It is business as usual at Castle Coffee, a unique taste of the downtown Albuquerque charm.

“I fell in love with downtown,” said Joshua Castleberry, owner of Castle Coffee, on his decision to open up in downtown Albuquerque two years ago.

But as he discovered last month, the vandals are just an unintended consequence.

“We came in and nothing was stolen, just a random person throwing rocks,” said Castleberry. “On my camera, I didn’t catch anything. But we just had a rock thrown through the window.”

They replaced the window and kept the souvenir.

But it’s the same thing at other businesses. Folks with Cafe Lush said a window was broken there around that same time. But they just fixed it and moved on. They don’t actually expect anyone will be held responsible for it.

According to APD, the previous administration signed the McClendon settlement agreement, discouraging officers from arresting people for non-violent misdemeanors, with the exception of DWI.

Officers can cite them, but that would mean they would need to catch them. If an arrest is warranted, the officer must explain the rationale.

“It’s just the unknowns, I think, are what’s annoying to me,” said Castleberry. “Just every day, not knowing. But we had to add more security cameras, so it’s just extra layers so if we do find out who it is we can track them down or at least know who they are.”

A spokesperson for APD said they are dedicated to issues impacting downtown and arrested someone for vandalism downtown last month.

But there is another strategy.

“We’re doing a number of things to help revitalize downtown,” said Karen Iverson, Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency manager.

Iverson said they are investing in housing, the Rail Trail and incentives for businesses.

They’re offering a $30,000 grant to new businesses to fill some of these vacant storefronts.

“It’s critical to safety, and revitalization to just get more activity, more of those vacant storefronts will make it seem more vibrant. It will attract more visitors. More visitors will attract more residents. Having more people on the streets make people feel safer. All of this feeds into a safety strategy,” said Iverson.

Castleberry said even with the possibility of more destruction, downtown is where he wants to be.

In fact, he plans to open a new Castle Coffee in east downtown.

Meanwhile, APD said they created the Downtown Public Safety District with officers and employees from different departments. They work with property owners to deal with issues like vandalism.

A spokesperson said last week those downtown officers logged 123 patrols. According to APD, those officers made 514 community contacts, 131 businesses contacts and responded to 63 calls for service.