4 Investigates: Undercover cameras expose illegal activity at city parks
December 16, 2018 10:13 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Some Albuquerque city parks have become havens for illegal activity, from open drug and alcohol use to drug deals conducted in broad daylight.
Over the course of two weeks, 4 Investigates went undercover at two Albuquerque city parks: Coronado Park near I-40 and 2nd Street and Bel Air Park near Menaul and Carlisle. After just 10 hours, our cameras exposed a problem that's painfully obvious: These public places have been hijacked by criminal activity.
At Coronado Park, 4 Investigates spotted two men exchange drugs for money in broad daylight. One man continued to find a spot in the park, roll up his sleeve and shoot up in the middle of the park. Our cameras also spotted frequent and illegal alcohol use.
"That park is a dangerous place to go for anybody," said Gerald Bischoff, who has a clear view of the illegal activity from his second-floor office. "Just about everything that you can think of that's illegal goes on in the park now."
Across town at Bel Air Park, there are signs of a similar story.
Gene Kuhn lives nearby and said walking his dog through the neighborhood park is like walking through a minefield.
"They break bottles over there. There's needles laying around," said Kuhn. "A lot of people don't go to that park at all anymore."
4 Investigates took video evidence of the illegal activity at Albuquerque's public parks straight to Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.
"This is a major issue, what we're doing is acknowledging it and saying we've got to do something about it," said Mayor Keller.
When asked what is currently being done to make these parks safe, Keller replied: "We have a needle pickup program which has been very effective and we're also putting syringe deposit stations through some of these high use areas."
The City of Albuquerque maintains roughly 300 neighborhood parks. Mayor Keller admits there are serious problems at some of those parks and the police force is understaffed. However, Keller said his team is working on a plan which includes $100,000 worth of improvements to park infrastructure and adding city security patrols.
"I came in with a 400-officer shortage and I think we're going to knock out about 100 of that which is great and that'll help but right now we're strapped across the city, and that's why we're doing the things we can do," said Keller. "It's going to be a long road no matter what but I think at least we have some meaningful ideas on the way."
Mayor Keller's parks director is leading up that plan to erase illegal activity from city parks.
"We're not going to close parks every time we face a challenge because we can overcome these challenges because we're going to reclaim our parks and reclaim our city. There really is no pressing need to close off parks unless they're no longer producing park benefits" said Albuquerque Parks Director David Simon.
City staff insists that each park has its own unique problems which may require unique solutions.
As for public parks like Coronado, Mayor Keller told 4 Investigates the city cannot ignore the root problems of homelessness and addiction.
"There's physically no place for those folks to go. We can take them to jail we can take them to the emergency room, both of those are ineffective and expensive," said Keller. "Until there's somewhere besides Coronado Park we're going to have that problem."
Mayor Keller made it clear that cleaning up Albuquerque's parks can't be the job of the government alone. He believes the community has to help too, hinting that he'll be asking voters for funds to help turn public safety around in the near future.
However, as the city continues to work on solutions, many people who live and work around troubled parks say a fix can't come soon enough.
"There has to be something they can do," said Kuhn.
Updated: December 16, 2018 10:13 PM
Created: December 16, 2018 06:52 PM
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