City responds to court ruling on clearing tent encampments

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The City of Albuquerque is appealing a district court ruling dictating how they respond to homeless camps.

The answer to this problem varies a lot depending on who you ask. Civil rights attorneys say constitutional rights are getting violated while the city says they are using a carrot, not a stick.

Albuquerque police released video showing the work officers are doing to clean up Central Avenue.

Police say they cleared out 16 homeless camps and stops that helped them find people with outstanding felony warrants.

“It’s unconstitutional. What they’re doing is unconstitutional. It is not illegal to be poor on the sidewalk,” said Laura Schauer Ives, who works with ACLU.

A recent district court ruling made it much more difficult for the city to clean up homeless camps. Police must obtain a warrant and cannot threaten to arrest people for having a camp in public places.

However, the city appealed. Court documents say “The city has attempted to address homelessness with a carrot, not a stick.”

And, unchecked homeless camps create health and safety concerns, pointing to deaths, guns, and mountains of drugs coming out of Coronado Park before it closed.

The city says they have “An equally significant interest in protecting its public spaces for their intended uses by all residents.”

Ives says the housing crisis is the city’s responsibility. While city officials say some people refuse services.

“Instead, APD is herding them to another place. There’s not a single place in the City of Albuquerque, apart from the Westside Shelter where it’s been identified that people can lawfully be outside who are poor and apparently unhoused,” Ives said. 

It will be up to the state Supreme Court to set the rules.

“For all of us, they’re making things worse in the City of Albuquerque, and they have an opportunity to do better and instead want to this. And it’s baffling to me,” said Ives. 

Ives says she expects the state Supreme Court to move quickly on this appeal, but it still could be weeks, or months, before we get a decision.