Advocates: Albuquerque violates court order in evicting campers

Advocates: Albuquerque violates court order in evicting campers

A battle over Albuquerque's homeless crisis is set for our state's highest court next week. In the meantime, advocates for people living on our streets say the city is skirting the rules to evict campers from public property.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A battle over Albuquerque’s homeless crisis is set for the New Mexico Supreme Court next week.

Advocates and the city have been at odds over the treatment of people who find themselves homeless and camping on public property.

On November 1, a District Court judge’s order went into effect that bars Albuquerque from clearing many of those campers and seizing their belongings.

But a video released to our 4 Investigates team shows Albuquerque Police and other city employees claiming public land is private property, saying that gives them grounds to evict campers. It also shows some city employees apparently unaware that the injunction is in place.

On November 9, a body camera from an officer shows him removing a man and woman from a city-owned property at 7200 Central Ave. SE.

“You guys can’t remove us, though,” the woman says from inside a tent.

“No, we can’t? That’s funny, because it’s city property. It’s private property,” the APD officer responds.

The two argue about whether city property is private property for a moment.

“It is,” the officer says. “And if you want to continue arguing you can just go to jail and I’ll take you to jail for a petty misdemeanor. I don’t care doing that either.”

The property in question belongs to the city, according to the Bernalillo County Assessor.

Advocates for homeless campers say city administration has deliberately misinformed police and other staffers about what they’re allowed to do in the wake of Judge Joshua Allison’s preliminary injunction, which essentially forbids the city from evicting most campers solely for being on public property that isn’t blocking a sidewalk or other right of way.

On November 27, a video provided to 4 Investigates shows a city staffer clearing a city lot at an unknown location.

“Well we’ll get you resources, but unfortunately you can’t be here,” the staffer says politely. “Okay? So that’s why I’m here.”

“May I ask why they can’t be here,” an advocate says. “My understanding is city property is public property and that is covered by the injunction.”

“What do you mean injunction?” the city staffer asks.

Christine Barber with ASUR New Mexico says she experienced the same thing on a vacant city lot next to the International District Library building.

In a video she showed to KOB 4, she asks an APD officer about the lawsuit and the injunction.

“That doesn’t apply here,” he responds. “If the city doesn’t want you guys in a certain spot, they can tell us and we have to enforce it.”

The city has gone so far as to put up No Trespassing signs at two city-owned lots, but the signs claim the land is private property.

City spokeswomen told 4 Investigates no one is allowed on fenced lots like 7200 Central SE and that campers are given 72 hours to leave after they’ve refused shelter.

They could not explain why evicting campers from a vacant, unfenced lot would not violate Judge Allison’s injunction.

Attorney Laura Schauer Ives says the offer of shelter is a false promise for many people who find themselves homeless. The city’s West Side shelter has had safety and sanitation problems. Even if the shelter’s roughly 500 beds were filled every night, the best estimates show thousands of people would still be left to camp somewhere in the city.

The city’s choice to remove people from public property is “not just a violation of the spirit of the order,” Schauer Ives says. “They know what they’re doing. This is a joke. This is a sham.”