Making good on a campaign promise, Mayor Tim Keller and the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced the creation of a “Downtown Public Safety District.”
No doubt the creation of the district was also in response to a petition drive by Downtown businesses and residents demanding such a substation.
The substation for the Downtown Public Safety District will be located at the Alvarado Transportation Center at First and Central SW.
The location is a conversion of a prisoner transport holding area that will require remodeling to remove jail cells.
The goal is to have a permanent police presence in Downtown Albuquerque.
The congregation of the homeless in the area have been a chronic problem especially around the Alvarado Transportation Center.
Consequently, a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) will be assigned to the district to address homelessness and behavioral health needs.
Several other city departments a well as community organizations providing services to the homeless and mentally ill will contribute resources to the district.
The other city departments that will be providing services to the area include:
1. Albuquerque Fire Rescue (AFR) will increase its presence near Central Avenue during high-volume call times and by driving a loop around the district after each call for service.
2. The Transit and Municipal Development departments will contribute security personnel to the district in coordination with APD’s patrol plans.
3. The Family and Community Services Department is contributing a social worker to coordinate service providers and implement Project ECHO to train mental health workers in the district.
4. The Municipal Development and Solid Waste departments will expand the use of street cleaning machines throughout Downtown, including alleyways, and add collection routes for Downtown businesses to address overflow of trash from Saturday nights.
5. Solid Waste will use its Block by Block program to wash sidewalks and its Clean City Graffiti crew to eradicate graffiti as soon as possible.
6. The Safe City Strike Force will monitor the district and work closely with Family and Community Services and other service providers.
7. The Family and Community Services Department is continuing to work with Heading Home’s ABQ Street Connect program to help people with significant behavioral health disability and who are experiencing homelessness.
8. The Home Engagement and Alternative Response Team of the Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Department is also exploring a Downtown home base.
The Family and Community Services will also be working with HopeWorks and outreach partners including APD’s COAST team, APD’s Crisis Intervention Team and ACT teams to do mental health outreach and will be working with the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness to help service providers for homeless people.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Creating a special “Public Safety Downtown District” is viewed by many as giving preferential law enforcement protection to one area of the city at the expense to the poorer neighborhoods such as Southeast Heights that have extremely high property and violent crime rates.
The previous Administration wanted create such a special district when the Chamber of Commerce and Lavu, both in the downtown area, complained about high crime and Lavu threatened to pull out of downtown.
All six of APD area commands are headed up by an APD Commander.
Creating a special downtown police district headed by an APD Deputy Chief with a Lieutenant and Sergeant assigned gives the definite appearance of preferential treatment to one area of the city at the expense of other poorer areas of the city.
Ten years ago there was a “Downtown Action” committee with downtown businesses participating that was chaired by the Chief Public Safety officer that coordinated efforts with APD, but it was dismantled by Chief Public Safety Officer Darren White.
Downtown Albuquerque is the sole of the city because of the history it represents.
The “Downtown Central” area must and can be revitalized because of its historical significance and being a part of historic Route 66.
The creation of a Downtown Public Safety District can be justified because of the recent commercial and residential developments that are emerging in the area.
The “One Central” development located at 1st Street and Central across the street where the APD substation, is a public-private mixed-use development, including at least 39,000 square feet of commercial space with an entertainment tenant initially described as an upscale bowling alley with at least two other retail or restaurant tenants, 60 residential units and a 429-space parking garage.
There has been a very large number of multi-story apartments and condos developed directly south of Central between 1st Street and 6th Street within the past 10 years along with the Silver Street “grocery store” in one of the developments.
The residential developments are Downtown’s biggest hope yet for Downtown revitalization because it will sustain vibrant downtown activity, where people can live, raise a family and work and play which is the “walkable city” concept.
The Albuquerque High School condos and the Lobo Rainforest Building and Innovate Albuquerque development across the street at Broadway and Central will no doubt help with Downtown revitalization.
The Downtown Public Safety District will succeed only if aggressive tactical plans for the downtown area are implement and sustained, otherwise it may prove to be a public relation move to placate or pacify the Downtown area businesses and residents.
For more on Downtown revitalization see: