Albuquerque convenience store owners respond to city lawsuit

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Can a business be responsible for driving up crime? That’s what the city says is going on at the Adam Food Market in the International District.

Now, the owners are responding to a lawsuit filed against them by the City of Albuquerque earlier this month.

Attorneys are asking a judge to drop it, they claim the city and the police department are trying to dodge responsibility. 

The city says the business is taking part in the crime, but attorneys representing the Adam Food Market owners say they’re also impacted by it.

In the last six months, we’ve seen a handful of businesses in that area close down with many blaming crime. If the city has its way, this market could be next, even though there are few stores left in the International District to buy the basics.

“There’s like really no other stores around here, there’s not even no grocery stores for that matter,” said Joel Becerra. 

But the Adam Food Market could be the next to go.

“The tenants of this property opened this business because there was a need in the community,” said Britany Schaffer, attorney for the Adam Food Market.  

Instead, APD says it’s a magnet for crime and the scene of six homicides since August 2020.

“This property is literally out of control,” said Mayor Tim Keller. 

The city is now suing to try to get the business shut down, calling it a nuisance property. They are pointing to more than 500 calls for service in one year, and a thousand man-hours for one business.

“Every week, we’re seizing firearms, we’re seizing fentanyl, and we’re seizing other illicit drugs, we’re making felony arrests,” said Luke Languit, APD Southeast Area commander.  

But attorneys representing the property and business owners at the Adam Food Market say there’s more to the story, and they’re asking a judge to dismiss the case.

“This is a case where I think the city is trying to come up with a solution to the fact that law enforcement isn’t able to curb criminal activity. So instead of accepting the accountability for that, they’re placing the accountability on businesses where crime is occurring,” said Schaffer. 

Schaffer says they’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to work with the police department by handing over passwords to their security system that has around a dozen cameras on the property.

Attorneys say the owners actually offered up the empty space right across the street for APD to use as a substation without charge, but they never heard back on that offer.

APD says that’s not a viable option.

Schaffer says other businesses in that area are struggling.

KOB 4 told you about the hundreds of calls for service at the Family Dollar down the street, and the 700 at the Walmart that closed on San Mateo.

She says the city’s nuisance ordinance allows them to pick and choose who pays the price.

“It allows for the city to call a nuisance to any residential or business property where crime occurs, and the person let it happen,” Schaffer said. 

There is the question of what happens if the store does close: does that mean the crime will go away? 

APD Chief Harold Medina mentioned Coronado Park as an example of stopping this type of crime hotspot.

But, as we know, many people living in Coronado Park just moved down the street.

KOB 4 asked the city if there was a plan should this business close, no one answered that question.