APD Makes Arrest In Connection With Killing Of Four Muslim Men

On August 9, the on line news outlet “The New Mexico Sun” published the news article entitled in part “Albuquerque Police Department makes an arrest in connection with killing of four Muslim men.” The article was written by NM Sun staff reporter George Willis. Following is the full, unedited article with the news source links:

Headline: “Albuquerque Police Department makes an arrest in connection with killing of four Muslim men: ‘We’ve never seen something like this’.

“Albuquerque Police have arrested Muhammad Syed, 51, in connection with two of the four homicides of Muslim men in the area.

Syed, according to KRQE News, was taken into custody on Monday in Santa Rosa, a town about 118 miles east of Albuquerque, where the murders took place. According to APD, Syed is charged with the July 26 shooting of Aftab Hussein and the Aug. 1 shooting of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain. APD connected Syed to those two cases through bullet casings recovered at the respective crime scenes and several guns recovered in the case.

https://www.krqe.com/news/crime/albuquerque-police-suspect-detained-in-murder-of-albuquerque-muslim-men/

“A tip from the community is what helped lead us to this subject, and what helped us eventually find the car that we put out just two days ago to the public,” APD Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock told KRQE News. “Hundreds of tips have come in that have been thoroughly reviewed; dozens of interviews took place.”
About the same time Syed was being arrested in Santa Rosa, APD was searching his home near Gibson and Carlisle. Police said multiple guns were found inside Syed’s home, while another gun was found in his car.

The capture came from a tip after the Council on American Islamic Relations increased the reward to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest in connection with four homicides of Muslim men in Albuquerque since November. The latest murder occurred last Saturday, the third killing within a span of two weeks.

Naeem Hussain, 25, was found dead hours after attending a funeral service for two of the three previous victims. Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, Aftab Hussein, 41, and Mohammad Ahmadi 62, were all “ambushed with no warning,” according to KOB4 News.

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/cair-raises-reward-for-information-on-recent-killing-of-muslim-men/

“We have never seen something like this — something so systematic — something happening over a long period of time, targeting multiple people with a killer who is still at large,” Edward Ahmed Mitchell, CAIR Deputy Director, told KOB4 News last week. “We encourage anyone with information to contact local or federal law enforcement. This violence must be stopped. Now, this is absolutely insane. It’s absolutely unacceptable, and it must end right away.”

Albuquerque police held a press conference Saturday to announce it was working with the FBI to find the persons responsible for the murders.

According to KOAT 7 Action News, Albuquerque police said the first homicide occurred on Nov. 7, 2021, when Ahmadi, who is from Afghanistan, was killed outside of a business he and his brother ran at 1401 San Mateo Blvd. The second homicide of Aftab Hussein, took place on July 26 in southeast Albuquerque.
The third homicide took place on Aug. 1 when Muhammed Afzaal Hussain was killed in southeast Albuquerque. Naeem Hussain was killed on Aug. 5 on Truman Street and Grand Avenue in northeast Albuquerque
.

https://www.koat.com/article/albuquerque-muslim-killings-arrest-new-mexico/40850530#

“The motives are still being explored, fully, to understand what they are,” Hartsock told KRQE News.

The link to the New Mexico Sun article is here:

https://newmexicosun.com/stories/630053524-albuquerque-police-department-makes-an-arrest-in-connection-with-killing-of-four-muslim-men-we-ve-never-seen-something-like-this

VICTIMS IDENTIFIED

The four victims whose murders law enforcement say may be connected are:

Mohammad Ahmadi, 62

Mohammad Ahmadi was the first homicide that happened on November 7, 2021. In that incident, Ahmadi was killed outside of a business he and his brother ran at 1401 San Mateo Blvd. Ahmadi was a Muslim man from Afghanistan.

Aftab Hussein, 41

Aftab Hussein was the second homicide that happened on July 26, 2022 in southeast Albuquerque. Aftab Hussein was found with apparent gunshot wounds in the 400 block of Rhode Island. He later died as a result of his injuries. Aftab Hussein was from Pakistan.

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, age 27

Muhammed Afzaal Hussain was the third homicide and he was killed on August 1 in southeast Albuquerque. He was found on a sidewalk in the area of Cornell Street and Lead Avenue. Muhammad Afzaal Hussain worked on the planning team for the city of Española. He had studied law and human resource management at the University of Punjab in Pakistan before receiving both master’s and bachelor degrees in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico, according to a news release. Muhammad Afzaal worked on the campaign of Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury and she said this:

“He was a member of our campaign team. A kind, funny, brilliant, amazing young man from Pakistan who came to the United States to pursue his career and his life’s dream.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/2522833/apd-seeking-silver-sedan-in-connection-with-murders-of-muslim-men.html

Naeem Hussain, age 25.

Naeem Hussain was the fourth homicide which occurred on August 5. Naeem Hussain who was found dead by APD police officers who responded to reports of a shooting just before midnight in the area of Truman Street and Grand Avenue. Naeem Hussain migrated as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016. According to his brother-in-law, Ehsan Shahalami, Hussain fleed persecution as a Shia Muslim and had just become a US citizen last month. He opened his own trucking business this year and was described as being a kind, generous and hardworking person. The day he was killed, he had attended a funeral for the two recent victims and expressed fear about the shootings, according to a spokesman with a mosque in Albuquerque.

Three of the men, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Aftab Hussein and Mohammad Ahmadi, were all ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed according to APD Homicide Investigations Commander Hartsock. Police have also said that they have determined there is a connection between the two deaths.
Links to quoted news sources are here:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/08/us/albuquerque-muslim-men-killings-monday/index.html

https://www.koat.com/article/albuquerque-crime-muslim-community-murders-new-mexico/40828252
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POSTSCRIPT

ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO SUN

The New Mexico Sun is part of the Sun Publishing group which is a nonprofit. The New Mexico Sun “mission statement” states in part:

“The New Mexico Sun was established to bring fresh light to issues that matter most to New Mexicans. It will cover the people, events, and wonders of our state. … The New Mexico Sun is non-partisan and fact-based, and we don’t maintain paywalls that lead to uneven information sharing. We don’t publish quotes from anonymous sources that lead to skepticism about our intentions, and we don’t bother our readers with annoying ads about products and services from non-locals that they will never buy. … Many New Mexico media outlets minimize or justify problematic issues based on the individuals involved or the power of their positions. Often reporters fail to ask hard questions, avoid making public officials uncomfortable, and then include only one side of a story. This approach doesn’t provide everything readers need to fully understand what is happening, why it matters, and how it will impact them or their families.”

The home page link to the New Mexico Sun is here:

https://newmexicosun.com/

Coronado Park Homeless Encampment Still Open; No Visible Progress Made Closing; Governor Lujan Grisham Expresses Desire For State To Purchase Coronado Park To Build State Facility For All Service Providers

On June 27, calling it “the most dangerous place in the state of New Mexico” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference standing in front of Coronado Park to announce its closure and to discuss his reasons for ordering the parks closed and saying it was imperative even without a fully formed plan for how to do it and what happens next.

The primary reason Keller gave for closure of the park was the extent of the crime. According to APD in the last two years there have been at least five homicides, 16 stabbings and 20 assaults. In 2021 APD responded to 651 calls at the park, and as of July 21, 2022 there have been 312 calls for service.

https://www.koat.com/article/coronado-park-closed-homeless/40724118

Keller said this:

“We’re not going to wait any longer. We have all the evidence we need that says that we have to do something different. … It is not going to be something where every question is answered, and every plan is thought out. … We do not have the luxury of a perfect plan. … At this point, if we don’t close the park now, it will never be a park again. … There was unanimous consensus that at a minimum, temporarily, this park has to close. … This is the first step. We welcome everyone to help us problem-solve, but someone has to step up and make a decision … And that’s what people elected me to do.

City officials have said that upwards 120 people camp nightly at the park. Homeless occupants will be told of other housing options offered by the city. The city will continue to offer services and housing options to those using Coronado Park, including making limited property storage available to those who are interested or in need of it.

Keller said the immediate closure of the park will be “messy” and that dispersing park residents could create other problems. Keller said that no decision had been made about the park’s specific closure date. He also said no long-term plans have been made for the property but said options include reopening it as a park, using it for the neighboring fire station’s expansion or turning it into a “safe outdoor space” which is a managed site with rules, toilets and showers where people who are homeless can legally camp.

The links to quoted news sources are here:

https://www.koat.com/article/coronado-park-closed-homeless/40724118

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/mayor-keller-reaffirms-plans-to-close-coronado-park/

https://www.abqjournal.com/2519423/were-not-going-to-wait-any-longer-mayor-says-of-coronado-park.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/2519038/keller-city-will-close-coronado-park.html

KELLER’S COMPLETE REVERASAL

Mayor Keller’s decision to close Coronado Park was a dramatic 100% reversal from when he gave excuses why he could not close Coronado Park. It was an astonishing admission of failure when Mayor Tim Keller said this about Coronado Park:

“[The federal courts] will not allow us to just walk in and arrest someone because they’re homeless and the current situation beats the alternative. … It is not lost on me that we created Coronado Park because Wells Park said, ‘We don’t want these folks in our neighborhood,’ and we agree with them. And that’s why they were all grouped to one area. … So you also got to remember the alternative. You can’t have it both ways — you want to close Coronado Park, you are going to open all of Wells Park neighborhood to something none of us want to see.”

Link to quoted news source:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2508302/man-fatally-shot-at-abq-park.html

KOAT TV TARGET 7 REPORT

On August 8, KOAT TV Target 7 reported that Coronado Park remains open, things have only gotten worse at the park and no visible progress has been made closing it. Following is the full transcript of the news story entitled “It’s starting to get worse’: Eight days into August, Coronado Park Still Not Closed”:

“Rio Bravo Brewery sits at 1912 2nd Street in North West Albuquerque.
“Some people don’t like the idea that it has concertina wire across the top,” said Rio Bravo Brewery c0-owner Denise Baker.
The brewery didn’t always have wiring.
“They’ve thrown trash. They’ve slept out here. And so, we’ve had to add cameras. You’ll notice we have cameras almost every spot in the place,” Baker said.
The precautions at the brewery are now needed.
“It’s starting to get worse,” Baker said.
That’s because the business is right across the street from Coronado Park.
“The vandalism has increased. We’ve had people smoking fentanyl in our bathrooms,” Baker said.
The increased vandalism and drug use in the area are affecting business.
“You ask, does it hurt our revenue? Well, definitely,” she added.
The problems with the park and the areas surrounding it are known.
“At some point, you just have to say you’re going to do something and that’s what we’re doing,” Mayor Tim Keller said at a press conference at Coronado Park on July 26, the day he announced the park was going to close.
“We must get started doing it, and that’s what August is going to be all about,” Keller said.
Keller said the park would begin to be cleared in August.
“It is still open and it’s worse now,” said Baker.
Baker says since the announcement was made, more people experiencing homelessness have moved back into an area of the park they once were not camping in.
“Now that they know the park’s closing, they’re taking residency in the dog park,” she said.
Target 7 wanted to get some clear answers. After a press conference yesterday about the recent violence against Muslim men, we confronted Keller about the park.
“Just given what we’ve been dealing with on Sunday, I don’t have nothing new. So stay tuned. You know, obviously, I have certainly been dealing with this for the last few days, so I do not have the latest on that. But I do know that everyone is working on a plan,” he said when asked for an update.
Baker says that with an answer like that, she is skeptical if the park will close this month, or at all.
“I just feel like he is pushing it down further, hoping it’ll silence the masses and we’ll quit asking for it,” Baker said.”

The link to the Target 7 News Report is here:

https://www.koat.com/article/its-starting-to-get-worse-eight-days-into-august-coronado-park-still-not-closed/40841088

GOVERNOR LUJAN GRSIAM INNTERESTED IN THE STATE PURCHASING CORONADO PARK FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS

On August 4 an event was held for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham where she spoke as she campaigns for reelection. It was held at a private home in the far Noth East heights and attracted a large, standing room crowd, of enthusiastic supporters wanting to hear her speak. The Governor spoke for approximately 45 minutes, and she exhibited an exceptional grasp of the issues including efforts to diversify the economy, economic develop and job creation, crime reduction efforts, rebuilding our mental health system, reducing taxes, protecting a woman’s right to choose and pointing out that much has been accomplished even while dealing with crisis after crisis after crisis such as the pandemic, the wildfires and flooding.

During her comments, the Governor took time to discuss crime in Albuquerque and how she is committed to programs to reduce the city’s out of control violent crime rates. While discussing the City’s crime, Governor Lujan Grisham in particular brought up the closure of Coronado Park. In what can only be considered a surprise announcement, the Governor said that her administration wants to purchase Coronado Park. Her plan is to build a facility or complex on the land for service providers to the homeless which would include private providers and state and city providers so that there will be one centralized location for services being provided. The Governor’s idea merits serious discussion. The reaction from the audience was positive. The Governor did not disclose exactly how far along the purchase plans are or if it was just an idea or if the city has been approached.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that no visible progress has been made closing Coronado Park and that things are only getting worse in the area. After all, Keller said that no decision had been made about the park’s specific closure date and just said “sometime in August”. Keller also admitted that the immediate closure of the park will be “messy” and that dispersing park residents could create other problems. This is what happens when you have no plans in place before making announcement and when you presume something will happen when you give an order.

Mayor Tim Keller has admitted that it is he who had the biggest hand in creating “the most dangerous place in the state of New Mexico” and creating the cesspool of crime known as Coronado Park. It was nauseating to see Mayor Keller being very dismissive of the Channel 7 reporter. Keller virtually walked away from him acting annoyed at being questioned and deflecting blame for not knowing what was going on with the closure of the park. Keller proclaimed he was dealing with another city crisis and the serial killings of the 4 Muslim men. Keller said this on camera as he was walking away:

“Just given what we’ve been dealing with on Sunday, I don’t have nothing new. So stay tuned. … I have certainly been dealing with for the last few days, so I do not have the latest on that. But I do know that everyone is working on a plan.

Keller needs to be reminded what he said a few months ago before he decided to close the park:

“It is not lost on me that we created Coronado Park because Wells Park said, ‘We don’t want these folks in our neighborhood,’ and we agree with them. And that’s why they were all grouped to one area.”

Grouping the homeless, as Keller said, in a city park should never have been considered as an option to deal with the homeless crisis given all the resources the city is spending to help the homeless. This so called “grouping” coming from a mayor who for his entire first term made dealing with the homeless crisis a corner stone of his administration. A Mayor whose administration spent $40 million in 2022 and will spend $60 million in 2023 to provide assistance to the homeless. A Mayor who saw to it that the city purchased the 529,000 square-foot Lovelace Hospital facility on Gibson for $15 million to have it converted into a Gateway Shelter and who made the westside shelter a 24-7 facility.

Keller has essentially “pivoted” from a crisis he has created known as Coronado Park to another crisis he will have to deal with when it comes to closing the park without any plan dealing those that are being displaced. Simply put, Coronado Park is an embarrassment with the city violating its own ordinances and nuisance laws by allowing overnight camping and criminal conduct in the park thus creating a public nuisance both under state law and city ordinance.

Coronado Park is the symbol of Keller’s failure as Mayor to deal with the homeless crisis. Perhaps Mayor Keller should pick up the phone and call the Governor and attempt to sell Coronado Park to the state in order to bail himself out of a crisis he has created.

It’s clear we have a Governor that actually knows what to do to deal with and solve a crisis as opposed to a mayor that creates a crisis and tries to solve it without a plan of action thereby making it even worse.

City In National Spotlight As 4th Muslim Man Killed; Serial Killer Suspected; Feds Brought In As “Vehicle Of Interest” Identified And Leads Sought; Muslim Community Takes Precautions

Alburquerque is under the national media spotlight and the subject of intense law enforcement efforts as the result of a fourth Muslim man having been killed in what police are saying is a serial killer targeting Muslim men based on their race and religion. Three killings have occurred in the last few weeks, with a 4th having occurred last year, prompting the FBI to step in and assist with the investigation. The New Mexico State Police, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives and the US Marshals Service are also assisting in the investigation. Law enforcement authorities are searching for a vehicle that may be connected with the killings and desperately seeking leads. Panic and fear has emerged within the city’s Muslim community as city, state and national leaders react to the killings.

VICTIMS IDENTIFIED

The four victims whose murders law enforcement say may be connected are:

Mohammad Ahmadi, 62

Mohammad Ahmadi was the first homicide that happened on November 7, 2021. In that incident, Ahmadi was killed outside of a business he and his brother ran at 1401 San Mateo Blvd. Ahmadi was a Muslim man from Afghanistan.

Aftab Hussein, 41

Aftab Hussein was the second homicide that happened on July 26, 2022 in southeast Albuquerque. Aftab Hussein was found with apparent gunshot wounds in the 400 block of Rhode Island. He later died as a result of his injuries. Aftab Hussein was from Pakistan.

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, age 27

Muhammed Afzaal Hussain was the third homicide and he was killed on August 1 in southeast Albuquerque. He was found on a sidewalk in the area of Cornell Street and Lead Avenue.Muhammad. Afzaal Hussain worked on the planning team for the city of Española. He had studied law and human resource management at the University of Punjab in Pakistan before receiving both master’s and bachelor degrees in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico, according to a news release. Muhammad Afzaal worked on the campaign of Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury and she said this:

“He was a member of our campaign team. A kind, funny, brilliant, amazing young man from Pakistan who came to the United States to pursue his career and his life’s dream.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/2522833/apd-seeking-silver-sedan-in-connection-with-murders-of-muslim-men.html

Naeem Hussain, age 25.

Naeem Hussain was the fourth homicide which occurred on August 5. Naeem Hussain who was found dead by APD police officers who responded to reports of a shooting just before midnight in the area of Truman Street and Grand Avenue. Naeem Hussain migrated as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016. According to his brother-in-law, Ehsan Shahalami, Hussain fleed persecution as a Shia Muslim and had just become a US citizen last month. He opened his own trucking business this year and was described as being a kind, generous and hardworking person. The day he was killed, he had attended a funeral for the two recent victims and expressed fear about the shootings, according to a spokesman with a mosque in Albuquerque.

Three of the men, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Aftab Hussein and Mohammad Ahmadi, were all ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed according to APD Homicide Investigations Commander Hartsock. Police have also said that they have determined there is a connection between the two deaths.

Links to quoted news sources are here:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/08/us/albuquerque-muslim-men-killings-monday/index.html

https://www.koat.com/article/albuquerque-crime-muslim-community-murders-new-mexico/40828252

“VEHICLE OF INTEREST” SOUGHT; REWARD OFFERED

The FBI is assisting with the investigation. APD has not released any descriptions of a suspect or suspects in the killings. APD and the FBI have set up an online portal for residents to upload videos and images which might help authorities investigating the killings. The link to the portal is here:

https://albuquerquepdnm.evidence.com/axon/citizen/public/abq_homicide_tips

Anyone with information about the vehicle can also call 505-843-STOP, go to crimestoppersnm.com, or contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

On Sunday, APD announced a lead in the investigation of the murders of the four Muslim men in Albuquerque. APD has identified a vehicle of interest and they are seeking the public’s help in finding it. The vehicle is a dark gray/silver Volkswagen Sedan with four doors and tinted windows. Police say the vehicle appears to be a Jetta. A mobile command post will be set up in the city for people to access services or provide information. APD emphasized the importance of help from the public which could be critical in cases like these.

Links to a related news storys to view the “vehicle of interest” are here:

https://www.koat.com/article/albuquerque-police-vehicle-related-muslim-homicide/40829160

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/apd-seeks-help-in-finding-vehicle-of-interest-in-murders-of-4-muslim-men/

Reward money is available for anyone that has information in this case. The local Crime Stoppers Board has voted to increase a reward for information leading to an arrest to $20,000 and there’s a $10,000 reward from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Edward Ahmed Mitchell deputy director of CAIR said people need to reach out to those in the Muslim community during this time and the Muslim community needs to take steps to be safe. Mitchell had this to say:

“We have never seen something like this, something so systematic, something happening over a long period of time, targeting multiple people with a killer who is still at large. … [We must] Be vigilant, be safe. Watch your back report anything suspicious, but carry on living your lives count confidently, boldly, publicly and fearlessly, we cannot let anti-Muslim extremists and bigots stop us from practicing our faith and living our lives. ”

The link to quoted news source is here:

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/string-of-murders-keep-muslim-community-on-edge/

OFFICIALS REACT

On Saturday, July 6, after Friday’s killing, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she will send additional state police to Albuquerque to help with the investigation. Grisham said this:

The targeted killings of Muslim residents of Albuquerque is deeply angering and wholly intolerable. I am sending additional State Police officers to Albuquerque to work in close coordination with APD and the FBI to bring the killer or killers to justice – and they WILL be found. I am incredibly angry about this situation. We will provide justice to the families who have lost everything. My Administration stands strongly with the Muslim community.

Mayor Tim Keller for his part had this to say:

“Albuquerque’s commitment to supporting our Muslim community cannot be broken. We remember each of the victims and the family, friends, and community who knew and loved them. We are outraged by these attacks and will not relent in our pursuit of justice for those we have lost.”

Albuquerque is home to as many as 5,000 Muslims out of some 565,000 total residents. Keller also said state authorities were working to provide an “extra police presence at mosques during times of prayer” as the investigation proceeds.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/us-biden-albuquerque-homicides-1.6544487

Ahmed Assad, President of the Islamic Center of New Mexico at a news conference said this

“This is not the New Mexico I grew up in and love and cherish.”

The killings drew swift condemnation from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

On Sunday, August 7, President Biden tweeted:

“I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque. While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims’ families, and my administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. These hateful attacks have no place in America.”

Vice-President Kamala Harris also tweeted on August 7:

“I am deeply disturbed by the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque. As law enforcement continues to investigate these heinous attacks, we remain clear that we stand with the Muslim community in New Mexico and around our country. Hate has no place in America.”

https://www.krqe.com/news/crime/president-biden-speaks-out-on-muslim-murders/

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/apd-seeks-help-in-finding-vehicle-of-interest-in-murders-of-4-muslim-men/

CITY’S MUSLIM COMMUNITY TAKES PRECAUTIONS

On August 7, the New York Times reported as follows:

“As the Albuquerque Police, the F.B.I. and the State Police appealed to the public for help in finding the killer or killers the attacks have left Muslims in a state of terror. One member who attended the Islamic Center of New Mexico, the same mosque as all four of the victims, said that he may never return, citing a fear of becoming “bait.”

Other members have temporarily left the state to stay with family members in other parts of the country to wait out the investigation. One man, who immigrated from Iraq, said that he felt safer back when he first came to the country in the 1980s. Another member, Salem Ansari, said that some who attend the mosque and work night shifts have quit their jobs. Ansari said this

“This situation is getting so much worse.”

Ahmad Assed, president of the mosque, said that he grew up in Albuquerque attending the Islamic Center but never felt isolated as a Muslim in the city. But now, he said, the community is going through a “sort of managed panic.”

The elder Mr. Hussain said that he had lived safely in his neighborhood for eight years since moving to the United States with his wife and children. His brother Muhammad arrived in 2017, and both men would go to the library at midnight or buy coffees late into the evening while attending the University of New Mexico as international students.

“Now, I look outside the window and think, ‘Oh, this is the place where my brother was killed. Should we move?’” he said.

Mr. Hussain said that he had initially hoped to send his brother’s body back to be buried with family in Pakistan, but the numerous gunshot wounds had made his brother unrecognizable, and Mr. Hussain did not want his family to see him. The killer “wanted to finish him — the whole nine yards,” he said.”

The link to the full quoted news source is here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/07/us/muslim-killings-albuquerque.html

On August 8, KRQE 13 reported:

The Muslim community in Albuquerque is taking precautions to protect themselves while police continue to investigate the recent string of violence against Muslim men. Khalid Emshadi, a local engineer and physicist, who is running for the New Mexico house of representatives says he is fearful of leaving his home because of the recent killings.

Emshadi says he will be working from home until someone is in custody and is calling on his community to stay home and stay safe. “Other Muslim families here they were very terrified and very devastated because this issue rang the bell in their minds that any one of them could be the next victim for whoever is shooting Muslims,” Emshadi said. He also called for anyone with information, no matter how little, to contact law enforcement

https://www.krqe.com/video/muslim-community-in-albuquerque-takes-precautions/7895572/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

This is a city and state that is historically known for embracing its ethnic and cultural diversity and welcoming immigrants. As a person whose grandparents were Italian immigrants and who is half Hispanic, who was born, raised and who has lived in Albuquerque for a lifetime, who has raised a family and who has made a living practicing law, I am extremely sickened and very angry to see what our city has become.

The never-ending saga of record-breaking homicide rates, violent crime rates, drug and property crime rates, the increasing homelessness numbers, and now targeted hate crimes, must be aggressively dealt with and stopped. Blaming the pandemic, claiming a national trend and blaming the courts and others for our crime rates has got to stop.

This is not, this must not be, who we are as a community. The expected expression of outrage by our elected officials is simply not enough. We must demand in no uncertain terms is that our elected officials, and yes our law enforcement, do a better job and hold them accountable when they make promises and then fail to keep them which is what has happened in the city for the last 8 years.

Create Specialty “Outreach, Veterans and Homeless” Court ” (OVH Court) Adding Civil Commitment Hearings; City Attorney, District Attorney And Public Defender Should Dedicate Attorney Resources Under Direction Of Court; Open City Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital And Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center

This blog article is a highly technical discussion and analysis of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Specialty Courts known as the Outreach Court, the Veterans Court and the Traffic Court Arraignment Program. The article cites in great detail the state laws that deal with the mentally ill and drug addiction. The article calls for the consolidation and creation of an “Outreach, Veterans and Homeless Court” combining Metro Court and State District Court resources and the city opening of a Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital And Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center at the Gibson Medical Center instead of a homeless shelter.

APD CRIMINAL LAW ENFORCMENT ACTIONS AGAINST HOMELESS

The City and the Albuquerque Police Department have adopted a “criminal citation” approach rather that and “arrest and confine” approach to deal with the homeless and the nonviolent felony crimes they commit. The main cause of this approach is the settlement of the federal case McClendon v. City of Albuquerque.

The McClendon case was a class-action lawsuit filed on January 10, 1995 in the United States Federal District Court by detainees at the Bernalillo County Detention Center (BCDC) in Albuquerque. The class-action lawsuit alleged that gross overcrowding and racial discrimination at the jail violated the constitutional rights of inmates.

In 2017 the city entered into a Stipulated Settlement Agreement in the McClendon federal case where the city agreed that people accused of nonviolent misdemeanors will not be arrested where there is no circumstances requiring an arrest. The primary reason for the settlement was to prevent jail overcrowding and it had absolutely nothing to do with or how the homeless are treated.

When it comes to “homeless crimes”, meaning illegal camping, criminal trespassing and loitering, those offenders are not to be arrested as the “primary intervention”. Under the settlement terms, police still have the option to issue citations and still have the discretionary authority to make felony and misdemeanor arrests as they deemed appropriate and where the circumstances warrant.

During the June 22, 2021 meeting of the Albuquerque City Council, a city attorney explained the federal pressures the city is operating under. The city attorney cited federal cases arguing that they place limitations on the city and he said this:

“[When it comes to] ‘quote, unquote’ homeless crimes, those offenders are not allowed to be arrested as a primary intervention”.

The APD adopted policy is Standard Operating Procedure 2-80-1 which states in part:

“Police Department policy is to arrest a felony violator of laws which its officers are empowered to enforce. Officers shall issue citations when appropriate in lieu of arrest on non-violent misdemeanor offenses (not to include DWIs) when there are no circumstances necessitating an arrest. In all cases, officers shall follow correct legal procedures required in arresting, booking, and filing charges against such violators.”

“HOMELESS” MISDEAMENOR CRIME CASES ARE OFFICER PROSECUTED CASES

The criminal misdemeanor citations issued by APD police can only be given when a police officer actually witnesses the offense. All such misdemeanor criminal citations are strictly officer prosecuted cases except DWI cases. What this means is that when it comes to the “homeless crimes” of illegal camping, criminal trespassing and loitering, those cases are prosecuted by police officers in Metro Court and do not involve prosecutors from the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office nor the Albuquerque City Attorney’s office.

KOB 4 contacted APD and asked them to quantify how they are enforcing the law when it comes to the low-level, nonviolent offenses committed by the homeless. An APD spokesman told KOB that since the beginning of 2022 there have been issued 2,308 citations to the homeless and it has issued 614 trespassing notices with 3 trespassing stops revealing outstanding warrants.

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/unm-law-professor-weighs-in-on-mayors-claims-about-homelessness/

When the homeless fail to show up for arraignments on the citations, bench warrants are issued by the Metro Court or a very large number of criminal citations wind up being dismissed because APD officers does not show to prosecute the cases.

CLOSURE OF CORONADO PARK

On July 25, Mayor Tim Keller announced the closure of Coronado Park. Keller said this in a statement:

“[The]situation is absolutely unacceptable, so we’re going to stop it. In August we’re closing Coronado Park. … It doesn’t matter if we know exactly what we’re doing next. It doesn’t matter exactly what the timing is or how we’re going to do it, but we have to do better than what’s happening at Coronado Park. There is a bed for every person [who stays at Coronado] to go. … The status quo will not stand … This remains a complex issue and while we work to determine what’s next for Coronado, we’ll keep stepping up to get folks connected to the right services and resources. …”

Keller admitted at the time of his announcement to close Coronado Park he had no real plan in place on how to deal with the closure of the park and the placement of upwards of 125 people about to be displaced. Keller essentially “pivoted” from one crisis he created known as Coronado Park to another crisis he will have to deal with when it comes to dealing with the homeless who will be displaced from the park.

A very large percentage of the Coronado Park homeless suffer from mental illness and/ or drug addiction. Many simply refuse “shelter housing” offered by the city, including the shelter housing in the west side 24-7 facility. Virtually none of the individuals who are displaced from Coronado Park will be placed at the Gibson Gateway Homeless Shelter in that it has yet to be opened.

THE CITY’S HOMELESS NUMBERS

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines sheltered homeless as “residing in an emergency shelter, motel paid through a provider or in a transitional housing program.” HUD defines “unsheltered homeless” as “those sleeping in places not meant for human habitation including streets, parks, alleys, underpasses, abandoned buildings, campgrounds and similar environments.”

Homeless providers consistently say the City has upwards of 5,000 homeless or near homeless. The city has upwards of 10 homeless service providers on contract and many of those 5,000 are already being provided with services. The real challenge is to convince that portion of the 5,000 who absolutely do not want any kind of services or help of any kind.

Each year the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey is conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night in Albuquerque, and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT count is done in communities across the country. The PIT count is the official number of homeless reported by communities to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

According to the most current PIT annual report, there were 1,567 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people living in Albuquerque. The 2021 PIT count found that 73.6% of the homeless population was staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing or using motel vouchers rather than sleeping in alleys, parks and other “unsheltered” locations.

Major highlights of the 2021 PIT report are as follows:

There were 1,567 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people living in Albuquerque, a slight increase over the 2019 count of 1,524 homeless. The 2020 homeless count is 2.8% higher than in 2019 and 18.9% more than in 2017, despite the pandemic limiting the 2021 counting efforts.

The 2021 PIT count found that 73.6% of the homeless population was staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing or using motel vouchers rather than sleeping in alleys, parks and other “unsheltered” locations. The 73.6% in the 2021 count is much a higher than the 2019 and 2017 PIT counts.

Albuquerque’s unsheltered homeless decreased from 567 people in 2019 to 413 in the 2021 count.

42% of Albuquerque’s unsheltered were defined as chronically homeless, meaning they had been continuously homeless for at least a year and had a disabling condition.

21% said they were homeless due to COVID.

37% were experiencing homelessness for the first time.

12% were homeless due to domestic violence.

30.19% of the homeless in Albuquerque self-reported as having a serious mental illness.

25.5% self-reported as substance abusers.

Note that a whopping 55.69% combined total of those surveyed self-reported as having a serious mental illness or were substance abusers.

The link to quoted statistics is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2402560/homeless-numbers-see-little-change.html

METROPOLITAN COURT’S OUTREACH COURT PROGRAM

A number of years ago, the Bernalillo Court Metropolitan Court established the specialty court known as “Drug Court” that dealt with those charged with misdemeanors and who suffered from drug addiction. A few years later, the Drug Court evolved into and was later named the “Metro Outreach Court.” The Outreach Court program is a collaborative effort between the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, the Office of the District Attorney, the Law Offices of the Public Defender, the Private Defense Bar, the Bernalillo County Attorney’s Office and community providers. The court follows the American Bar Association’s (ABA) seven guiding principles for Homeless Courts and is modeled after the San Diego Homeless Court.

METRO OUTREACH COURT EXPLAINED

The Metro Court Outreach Court has a web page that provides the following description of the court and how it operates:

“The Court model is based around local community service providers being the gateway for participants to enter into programs voluntarily. Outreach Court is a specialty court program aimed at a segment of the population that has limited means of complying with conditions of the court, and faces challenges in obtaining legal representation. As a result, misdemeanor charges are often ignored until the defendant is incarcerated.

Outreach Court is unique from all other specialty courts as it is designed to work with individuals already engaged with treatment providers and give them an opportunity to resolve outstanding misdemeanor cases and warrants. This is accomplished by collaborating with community providers that are already providing services to these individuals.

Outreach Court provides a progressive diversionary program, allowing alternative resolutions in lieu of custody, fines, and fees for most misdemeanor charges. Participants may engage in life skills activities, substance abuse group meetings, literacy classes, and training, or search for employment, counseling, and programming aimed at improving their situations under the guidance of their community provider. The court acknowledges these endeavors in order to satisfy the courts’ requirements.

The prospective participants are referred to court staff to determine eligibility by their community advocate. If approved for participation, court staff will notify all involved parties. The participant will work with their client advocate at their chosen program to design a plan to move towards self-sufficiency prior to appearing in court.

This initiative shows a participant’s willingness to seek justice and to reconcile their past by their continued efforts to reclaim their future. Providers will write letters of advocacy on behalf of the participant and their efforts in the program. This is symbolic of the relationship between the client and the program, and outlines their accomplishments, providing the court with insight into their efforts. The court will review the letter of advocacy and determine the graduation time of the participant to be held at a community provider’s location.

Outreach court enables homeless and precariously housed individuals who are actively engaged in the program to address their outstanding legal obligations, freeing them to reclaim their lives and return to the community as valued members.”

The current presiding Judge of the Metro Outreach Court is the honorable Maria Dominguez.

https://metro.nmcourts.gov/bernalillo-county-metropolitan-court/specialty-courts/outreach-court/

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION PRINCIPLES FOR HOMELESS COURT PROGRAMS

The Metro Outreach court follows the American Bar Association’s (ABA) seven guiding principles for Homeless Courts. Those 7 guidelines are as follow:

(1) Prosecutors, defense counsel, and the court should agree on which offenses may be resolved in the Homeless Court Program, and approve the criteria for individual participation recognizing that defendant participation in Homeless Court Programs shall be voluntary.

(2) Community-based service providers should establish criteria for individual participation in the Homeless Court Program and screen individuals pursuant to these criteria.

(3) The Homeless Court Program shall not require defendants to waive any protections afforded by due process of law.

(4) All Homeless Court Program participants shall have time for meaningful review of the cases and issues prior to disposition.

(5) The Homeless Court Program process and any disposition therein should recognize homeless participants’ voluntary efforts to improve their lives and move from the streets toward self-sufficiency, including participation in community-based treatment or services.

(6) Participation in community-based services shall replace sanctions such as fines, public work service and custody.

(7) Defendants who have completed appropriate treatment or services prior to appearing before the Homeless Court shall have minor charges dismissed, and, where appropriate, may have more serious misdemeanor charges before the court reduced or dismissed. Where charges are dismissed, public access to the record should be limited.

https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/homelessness_poverty/policy-resolutions/108a-homeless-court-principles.pdf

METRO “COMMUNITY VETERANS” COURT

In 2012, Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Albuquerque Veteran’s Medical Center to implement a Veterans Program.

VETERANS COURT EXPLAINED

The Veteran’s Court has a web page that provides the following description of the court and how it operates

“A team of criminal justice, treatment, and Veteran’s Affairs professionals were assembled that meet on a monthly basis to discuss Veteran defendants in Bernalillo County who were facing criminal charges or were struggling to meet their probation requirements.

The team soon learned first-hand how partnering with the VA and Veteran community resources was necessary in the effort to break down barriers and improve the identification and meeting the specialized needs of Veterans.

The Community Veterans Court began admitting participants in May of 2016. … [This] Court leads a multidisciplinary team consisting of two probation officers, an assistant district attorney, a public defender, and the Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator from the New Mexico Veterans Administration Health Care System. To be eligible, defendants must be veterans of military service from any era regardless of discharge status, in the National Guard, or in the Reserves. Additionally, they must have been charged with a misdemeanor in Bernalillo County and volunteer to join the Court. Treatment services for any substance use disorder or mental illness, such as PTSD, are obtained primarily from the Veterans Administration Hospital or local Veterans Clinic.

Participants meet with the judge for status hearings one or more times per month, undergo frequent and random drug and alcohol testing, meet with an assigned probation officer, engage satisfactorily in treatment, and satisfy other conditions of the Court. Each participant is paired with a mentor, who is also a veteran. The unique camaraderie of the veteran’s group is a vital component in each participant’s recovery.

https://metro.nmcourts.gov/bernalillo-county-metropolitan-court/specialty-courts/community-veterans-court-c-v-c/

VETERANS COURT ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

The Veterans Court has the following 6 eligibility criteria for participants

1. 18 years of age or over
2. Charged with a misdemeanor offense in Bernalillo County
3. Must have served in the U.S. Armed Forces or the corresponding reserve branches and/or members of the National Guard. Less than honorable discharges are reviewed on a case by case basis
4. Eligibility for CVC is not determined by eligibility for benefits from the Veterans Administration
5. An identified treatment need/issue substantially related to the offense
6. Consent of the prosecuting authority for pre-plea referral to the CVC or post plea if a presumptive commitment to prison/ jail exists.

Acceptance in the program is contingent upon meeting the full eligibility criteria of the program and approval of the CVC Presiding Judge.

You may be excluded from the CVC Program if you:

• Have a conviction or a guilty plea to any offense deemed violent or inappropriate for the CVC.

• Have been found guilty for any degree of murder, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, or an offense involving a weapon.

• Have been found guilty of a sexual offense.

• Have another pending criminal case in which you would be deemed ineligible.

• Are on probation/parole supervision for another case.

https://metro.nmcourts.gov/bernalillo-county-metropolitan-court/services/language-access/eligibility-criteria/

https://metro.nmcourts.gov/bernalillo-county-metropolitan-court/specialty-courts/community-veterans-court-c-v-c/

PILLARS OF VETERANS COURT

The following 3 pillars are required of each participant:

1. Honesty: Committing to your own recovery by being truthful in dealing with others and yourself. When you make a bad decision, take responsibility for it. The goal of this program is to assist you in your recovery, but this goal can only be met if you are honest with the team and yourself.

2. Integrity: Maintaining good character and abiding by a self-imposed moral code no matter where you are or who you are with. As the Judge likes to say, “doing the right thing when no one is looking.”

3. Accountability: Investing in your own mental, emotional and physical recovery by being mindful of your actions and impulses. Be accountable to the team, but more importantly, be accountable to yourself and the goals you have set for yourself in your recovery.”

DIVERSIONARY/FIRST OFFENDER DWI TRACK

“The six (6) month Diversionary and DWI First Offender Track … [is] screened by a program probation officer for eligibility or suitability. This screening can occur prior to the case being set for trial through a “pre- screening” process. The CVC screenings can be requested by your attorney and/or prosecuting attorney by contacting a CVC probation officer or staff.”

POST PLEA TRACK

The CVC does not become involved in the process of a plea agreement. All plea agreements [are] … made prior to entry into the program [and] … by [the defense] … attorney and the prosecuting attorney’s office. All pending criminal cases have to be resolved prior to admission into the CVC program. The post-plea track is expected to last a minimum of 12 months. There are four phases in the post-plea track and advancement from phase to phase is based on meeting clearly outlined criteria.

https://metro.nmcourts.gov/bernalillo-county-metropolitan-court/specialty-courts/outreach-court/

TRAFFIC COURT ARRAIGNMENT PROGRAM

Virtually all misdemeanor citations issued by and APD officer, except that of DWI, are officer prosecuted cases where police must appear for arraignments and where they must eventually prosecute the cases themselves before a judge. There is one major exception to this general rule of officer prosecuted cases and that is the Metropolitan Court Traffic Court Arraignment program where Assistant City Attorney’s are cross deputized by the Bernalillo County District Attorney to handle arraignments of traffic cases and negotiate plea and disposition agreements with the assistance of paralegals.

In 2006, the Metropolitan Traffic Court Arraignment Program was created by an agreement between the City Attorney, the Bernalillo County District Attorney and the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. Despite the historical and designated role of the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office as the chief law enforcement office for the prosecution of criminal cases, misdemeanor or felony cases, the City Attorney’s office was tasked with the program. Then Deputy City Attorney Pete Dinelli was given the assignment to create the program with the hiring of Assistant City Attorneys and paralegals and to manage and oversee the attorneys and Para Legals.

Assistant City Attorneys are cross deputized or appointed “special prosecutors” by the Bernalillo County District Attorney with the sole authority to negotiate plea and disposition agreements in traffic cases at the time of arraignments and approved by a Metro Judge, thereby negating the need for sworn APD personnel to appear at arraignments. The rationale for the city attorney’s office to be involved with traffic arraignments is to provide a major accommodation to the Metropolitan Court and to eliminate the need of sworn APD officers to go to court for arraignments on traffic offenses. The traffic court arraignment program reduces police overtime where APD sworn personnel are entitled to a minimum of 2 hours of overtime charged at time and a half under the union contract.

When a person is stopped and issued traffic citation, the citing sworn officer determines if the driver will contest the citations. If the driver wants to contest the citations issued, an arraignment date and time is immediately scheduled by the citing officer utilizing a Metro Court scheduling program developed by the court. The Metropolitan Traffic arraignment program streamlines the process, saves time and money and negates the appearance of police officers at arraignments.

NEW MEXICO STATUTORY LAW ON CIVIL COMMITMENTS FOR MENTALLY ILL AND DRUG ADDICTED

EDITOR’S NOTE: The state laws dealing with mental illness commitment hearings are highly technical for reading by a layperson but do provide a succinct outline of how the process works. For that reasons the statutes quoted herein have been heavily edited with deletions to assist the reader.

NM Statute §43-1-1 (2019)

It is Chapter 43 of the New Mexico Statutes that deals with mental illness commitment procedures and mental health evaluations of criminal defendants and to provide court ordered treatment.

NM Stat § 43-1-1 (2019) provides in part as follows:

“A. Whenever a district court finds it necessary to obtain an evaluation of the mental condition of a defendant in a criminal case, the court shall order an evaluation from a qualified professional available to the local facilities of the court or from a qualified professional at a local mental health center designated by the secretary of health. …

The Secretary of Health shall arrange for a qualified professional furnished by the state to visit the defendant in local facilities available to the court or shall designate suitable available facilities. If the secretary of health designates a local mental health center or a state facility for the defendant’s evaluation within forty-eight hours of service of the evaluation order, the secretary of health shall notify the court of such designation.

B. If the Secretary of Health elects to have the defendant retained at the district court’s local facilities, the qualified professional furnished by the state shall visit the local facilities not later than two weeks from the time of service of the court’s evaluation order upon the secretary of health … .

C. If the Secretary of Health elects to have the defendant transported to the facilities designated by the Secretary of Health for the purpose of evaluation, the evaluation shall be commenced as soon as possible after the admission of the defendant to the facility, but, in no event, shall the evaluation be commenced later than seventy-two hours after the admission.

The defendant, at the conclusion of the evaluation, shall be returned by the county sheriff to the local facilities of the court upon not less than three days’ notice. After the evaluation is completed, the qualified professional furnished by the state shall be available for deposition to declare his findings. The usual rules of evidence governing the use and admissibility of the deposition shall prevail.

D. Documents reasonably required by the secretary of health to show the medical and forensic history of the defendant shall be furnished by the court when required.

E. After an evaluation and upon reasonable notice, the district court may commit a dangerous defendant charged with a felony … or may dismiss the charges without prejudice and refer the defendant to the district attorney for possible initiation of proceedings under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code.

A defendant so committed under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code shall be treated as any other patient committed involuntarily.

Whenever the Secretary of Health determines that he does not have the ability to meet the medical needs of a defendant committed … the secretary or his designee shall serve upon the district court and the parties a written certification of the lack of ability to meet the medical needs of the defendant.
The court shall set a hearing upon the certification within ten days of its filing and shall, after the hearing, make a determination regarding disposition of the criminal case.

When deemed by the Secretary of Health to be medically appropriate, a dangerous defendant committed pursuant … may be returned by the county sheriff to the custody of the court upon not less than three days’ notice. The secretary shall provide written notification to the court and parties within three days of the defendant’s discharge.

F. … .”

NM STATUTE § 43-1-11 (2020)

In 2020, the New Mexico Legislature enacted 43-1-11 providing for and outlining a process for the civil commitment of adults for mental health evaluations and to provide medical help.

NM Stat § 43-1-11 (2020) provides in part as follows:

“A. Every adult client involuntarily admitted to an evaluation facility … has the right to a hearing within seven days of admission unless waived after consultation with counsel.

If a physician or evaluation facility decides to seek commitment of the client for evaluation and treatment, a petition shall be filed with the court within 5 days of admission requesting the commitment.

The petition shall include a description of the specific behavior or symptoms of the client that evidence a likelihood of serious harm to the client or others and shall include an initial screening report by the evaluating physician individually or with the assistance of a mental health professional or, if a physician is not available, by a mental health professional acceptable to the court.

The petition shall list the prospective witnesses for commitment and a summary of the matters to which they will testify. … .

B. At the hearing, the client shall be represented by counsel and shall have the right to present evidence on the client’s behalf, including testimony by an independent mental health professional of the client’s own choosing, to cross-examine witnesses and to be present at the hearing.

… .

C. A court-appointed guardian for an adult involved in an involuntary commitment proceeding shall have automatic standing [or right] to appear at all stages of the proceeding … .

D. The court shall include in its findings the guardian’s opinion regarding the need for involuntary treatment … .

E. Upon completion of the hearing, the court may order a commitment for evaluation and treatment not to exceed thirty days if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that:

(1) as a result of a mental disorder, the client presents a likelihood of serious harm to the client’s own self or others;

(2) the client needs and is likely to benefit from the proposed treatment; and

(3) the proposed commitment is consistent with the treatment needs of the client and with the least drastic means principle.

F. Once the court has made the findings set forth … , the court shall hear further evidence as to whether the client is capable of informed consent. If the court determines that the client is incapable of informed consent, the court shall appoint for the client a treatment guardian … .

G. An interested person who reasonably believes that an adult is suffering from a mental disorder and presents a likelihood of serious harm to the adult’s own self or others, but does not require emergency care, may request the district attorney to investigate and determine whether reasonable grounds exist to commit the adult for a thirty-day period of evaluation and treatment.

The applicant may present to the district attorney any medical reports or other evidence immediately available to the applicant, but shall not be required to obtain a medical report or other particular evidence in order to make a petition.

The district attorney shall act on the petition within seventy-two hours. If the district attorney determines that reasonable grounds exist to commit the adult, the district attorney may petition the court for a hearing.

The court may issue a summons to the proposed client to appear at the time designated for a hearing, which shall be not less than five days from the date the petition is served.

If the proposed client is summoned and fails to appear at the proposed time and upon a finding of the court that the proposed client has failed to appear, or appears without having been evaluated, the court may order the proposed client to be detained for evaluation … .

H. … .”

https://law.justia.com/codes/new-mexico/2020/chapter-43/article-1/section-43-1-11/#:~:text=An%20interested%20person%20who%20reasonably,grounds%20exist%20to%20commit%2

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

By all accounts and based upon lengthy discussion with both the presiding Judges of the “Metro Court Outreach Court” and the “Metro Community Veterans Court”, both specialty courts can be considered highly successful.

APD is doing its job with resources it has when it comes to the homeless. As noted since the beginning of 2022 there have been issued 2,308 citations to the homeless and it has issued 614 trespassing notices with 3 trespassing stops revealing outstanding warrants. However, much more can be done with the coordination of resources and placing an emphasis on dealing with the mentally ill and the drug addicted. The Metro Court should establish an identical procedure that it has with the Metro Traffic Arraignment Program that when the officer issues the citation to the homeless person, a Notice of a a date and hearig is also provided in the citation itself.

A glaring reality is much more must be done with the initiation of civil commitment hearings to deal with the mentally ill and the drug addicted who are homeless and to ensure that they get the medical treatment and counselling services they need.

Both the City Attorney and the Bernalillo County District Attorney can and should dedicate resources in the form of attorneys that will assume the filing of civil mental health commitment pleadings for such hearings as prescribed by law. The New Mexico Public Defender should also be called upon by the Court to provide a defense where and when needed.

APD needs and should assume the responsivity to investigate and identify those homeless and drug addicted who are criminal offense repeat offenders, both misdemeanor and felony, and who pose a danger to themselves and others. Constitutional policing practices must be adhered to avoid violations of civil rights.

A program of cross deputization of City Attorney’s by the Bernalillo County District Attorney to allow them to file civil mental health commitment petitions in State District Court in misdemeanor and felony cases can be created. This would be similar to what is done with the Metro Traffic Court arraignment program.

CREATE “OUTREACH, VETERANS AND HOMELESS COURT”

What can and should be created is one single specialty court designated as the “Outreach, Veterans and Homeless Court” or OVH Court. The Criminal Division of the State District Court should assign a District Court Judge do deal exclusively with mental health commitment hearings with the help of Metro Judges and the consolidation and the assistance of “Metro Court Outreach Court” and the “Metro Community Veterans” court under one court that is established in both Metro Court and State District Court using both court’s resources including courtrooms.

OPEN HOMELESS BEHAVIORAL HEALTH HOSPITAL AND DRUG REHABILITATION TREATMENT CENTER

The city for its part should seek to dedicate the massive 572,000 square-foot Gibson Medical complex as a “Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital And Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center” and abandon its efforts to create an overnight homeless shelter known as the Gateway Shelter. The highest and best use for the Gibson Medical Center facility is a hospital or medical facility, the purpose for which it was originally built for and for which it is already zoned. This will allow the facility to be used for civil commitments by the “Outreach, Veterans and Homeless Court” to deal with the homeless crisis.

The Gibson Medical facility needs to be staffed with full time physicians, counselors, social workers and mental health experts to provide the needed care to the homeless who are suffering from addiction or mental illness. Services and medical and mental health care at the center should be offered to the homeless with a “self-commitment” component for a period of time that will guarantee access to the necessary medical and mental health services.

The facility is large enough where it can be remodeled to ensure safety and accommodate both services to the mentally ill and drug addicted homeless and separate them from other homeless who do not suffer from mental illness and drug addiction but who go to the facility for other services provided to the homeless.

Efforts should be made by the city to seek emergency funding from Bernalillo County Commission and the behavioral health tax with a “Memorandum Of Understanding” for the county to staff the facility while the city operates, maintains it, remodels it and provides security.

The city has a moral obligation to help the homeless who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction.
A Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital and Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center at the Gibson Medical Center would fill that void and provide a facility that is absolutely necessary to provide medical health care to the homeless.

Keller Should Abandon Efforts To Make Gibson Medical Center Homeless Shelter; City Council Should Dedicate It As “Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital And Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center”; No One Displaced From Coronado Park Will Be Housed At Gibson Gateway Center

On July 25, Mayor Tim Keller announced closure of Coronado Park. Keller said in a statement:

“[The]situation is absolutely unacceptable, so we’re going to stop it … we’re closing Coronado Park. … It doesn’t matter if we know exactly what we’re doing next. It doesn’t matter exactly what the timing is or how we’re going to do it, but we have to do better than what’s happening at Coronado Park. … The status quo will not stand … This remains a complex issue and while we work to determine what’s next for Coronado, we’ll keep stepping up to get folks connected to the right services and resources. …

Not a single one of the upwards 120 homeless people who will be displaced from Coronado Park will be housed in the Gibson Gateway Homeless shelter simply because it’s not open yet. The city has said that a large percentage of the homeless that are being displaced from Coronado Park suffer from mental illness or drug addiction. Many resist the “shelter housing” offered by the city, including the shelter housing in the west side 24-7 facility.

Over the last 10 years, Coronado Park became the “de facto” city sanctioned homeless encampment with the city repeatedly cleaning it up only for the homeless to return the next day. At any given time, there are 75 to 100 homeless tents or campsites at the park with 100 to 125 homeless living on the grounds and wandering in the area. City officials have said it is costing the city $27,154 every two weeks or $54,308 a month to clean up the park only to allow the homeless encampment to return.

Keller himself admitted there is no real plan in place on how to deal with the closure of the park and the placement of all those that are about to be displaced. Keller essentially “pivoted” from one crisis he created known as Coronado Park to another crisis he will have to deal with when it comes to dealing the 100 to 125 homeless that are being displaced.

LOVELACE GIBSON MEDICAL CENTER PURCHASE

It was on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, that Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference in front of the Gibson Medical Center, formerly the Lovelace Hospital, to officially announce the city had bought the massive 572,000 square-foot building that has a 201-bed capacity, for $15 million. The facility is currently in the process of being be transformed into a Gateway Center Shelter for the homeless. In making the announcement, Keller said in part:

“The City of Albuquerque has officially bought the Gibson Medical Center, the cornerstone of our Gateway Center network. In total, this represents the largest capital investment that Albuquerque has ever made for the unhoused. We have roughly 5,000 homeless people. … what we’re looking at here is to move past this question of where … No matter how you feel about it, we’ve answered that question.”

After his press conference, Keller came under severe criticism for his failure to reach a consensus and take community input before the Gibson Medical Center was purchased. Keller said he planned to confer with residents in the future. Keller made it clear either way, like it or not, the site had been selected and the Gibson Medical facility will be used to service the homeless population as a Gateway Center.

https://www.abqjournal.com/774956/medical-center-at-old-lovelace-hospital-might-expand-to-other-uses.html

ZONING APPLICATION AND OPERATION PLAN FOR GIBSON MEDICAL CENTER

It is proposed that the Gateway Center Shelter will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year “homeless shelter”. The zoning for the Gibson Medical Center facility allows for an “overnight shelter” but only as a “conditional use” under the Integrated Development Ordinance that must be applied for by the city. Within weeks of purchasing the facility, the city applied for the “conditional use” arguing there is a strong need for it to enhance Albuquerque’s demand for homeless services to an ever-expanding homeless population.

In anticipation of the zoning application, the City prepared an operations plan for the Gibson site and posted it on its website. The “Gateway Center at Gibson Health Hub Operations Plan” includes the services to be provided, including transportation and dining, security and related topics and it all centers on the facility being used as temporary housing homeless shelter.

The City of Albuquerque posted on its internet web site an 11 page draft of the “Gateway Center at Gibson Health Hub Operations Plan” for the homeless shelter. The draft the operations plan is dated August, 2021. The link to the 11 page “Gateway Center at Gibson Health Hub Operations Plan” is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/family/documents/operations-plan-draft-8-21-conditional-use-app.pdf

The draft Gateway Operations Plan provides that The Gibson Health Hub (GHH) is to be an anchor facility to fill healthcare and social service gaps. A large portion of the Gateway Center will be to provide shelter and services to the homeless. The mission of the Gateway Center will be to “provide a safe and welcoming place that provides a low-barrier, trauma-informed shelter along with services to the homeless using a client-centered approach.” According to the operation plan, Gateway Center staff will conduct an assessment that will address any immediate issues that need to be resolved, including physical or medical health issues that may require a triage to more appropriate options. This may include referals for medical respite, detox or recovery programs.

The draft Gateway Operations Plan outlines that service staff will conduct a general assessment with individuals and families to verify that the Gateway Center is an appropriate option. As part of this assessment, Gateway Center staff will assess whether the presenting individual or family can be safely diverted to a non-shelter alternative. The Gateway Shelter will establish a referral process for community organizations, including other homeless assistance providers and other local service agencies.

https://www.cabq.gov/planning/documents/CRPhandbook0512.pdf

APPEAL STILL PENDING

Since the filing of the zoning application, the application has been bogged down in appeals filed by the surrounding neighborhoods. Mayor Keller himself has lamented on the very slow progress to the point that he proclaimed the facility is caught up in the endless “purgatory” of appeals.

On October 6, 2021, it was reported that hearing examiner Robert Lucero postponed a decision on the city’s application for a “conditional use” approval to use the Gibson Medical Center for “emergency overnight” shelter so the city can finish finalizing key details.

Lucero found that the city had demonstrated its shelter plan complied with Albuquerque’s Integrated Development Ordinance, but he said its case relied in part on a “draft” operations plan for the proposed Gateway Center. The city released the draft in August addressing topics like shelter intake hours, client transportation and site security. The city has yet to formalize it, which Lucero said leaves it subject to change.

Lucero wrote:

“This matter should be deferred to allow the city the opportunity to finalize and adopt the operations plan on which rests a significant portion of the justification of the shelter application. ”

The appeal is still pending with remodeling work being done without the zoning change. The city has yet to fully formalize the operations plan an no hearing will be scheduled before that is accomplished.

https://www.abqjournal.com/2435869/gateway-shelter-zoning-decision-is-postponed.html

INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT ORDINANCE (IDO)

The Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) includes Zoning and subdivision regulations to govern land use and development within the city of Albuquerque and establishes a system of planning. The IDO is organized into 7 Parts. Each part includes regulations for particular topic.
Private projects will be most affected by four factors:

1. How the property is zoned.
2. What uses are allowed at that location.
3. What development standards the project will need to meet, and
4. What process the project will need to go through to be approved.

do.abc- zone.com/#:~:text=Albuquerque%20Integrated%20Development%20Ordinance&text=The%20Integrated%20Development%20Ordinance%20(IDO,the%20City’s%20system%20of%20planning.

Under the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO), Section 14-16-7 entitled Definitions, Acronyms, and Abbreviations, the terms Overnight Shelter, Medical or Dental Clinic Hospital are defined as follows:

OVERNIGHT SHELTER

A facility that provides sleeping accommodations for 6 or more persons for a period of less than 24 hours with no charge or a charge substantially less than market value; it may provide meals and social services. Any such facility open to clients between 10:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. is considered an overnight shelter. See also Community Residential Facility, Group Home, and Campground or Recreational Vehicle Park.”

MEDICAL OR DENTAL CLINIC

“An establishment where patients who are not lodged overnight are admitted for examination and treatment by a group of licensed health care practitioners, dentists, or licensed health care practitioners and dentists in practice together.”

HOSPITAL

“An establishment that provides diagnosis and treatment, both surgical and nonsurgical, for patients who have any of a variety of medical conditions through an organized medical staff and permanent facilities that include inpatient beds, medical services, and continuous licensed professional nursing services. This definition includes any facility licensed by the state as a general, limited, or special hospital.”

THE CITY’S HOMELESS NUMBERS

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines sheltered homeless as “residing in an emergency shelter, motel paid through a provider or in a transitional housing program.” HUD defines “unsheltered homeless” as “those sleeping in places not meant for human habitation including streets, parks, alleys, underpasses, abandoned buildings, campgrounds and similar environments.”

Homeless providers consistently say the City has upwards of 5,000 homeless or near homeless. The city has upwards of 10 homeless service providers on contract and many of those 5,000 are already being provided with services. The real challenge is to convince that portion of the 5,000 who absolutely do not want any kind of services or help of any kind.

Each year the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey is conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night in Albuquerque, and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT count is done in communities across the country. The PIT count is the official number of homeless reported by communities to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

According to the most current PIT annual report, there were 1,567 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people living in Albuquerque. The 2021 PIT count found that 73.6% of the homeless population was staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing or using motel vouchers rather than sleeping in alleys, parks and other “unsheltered” locations.

Major highlights of the 2021 PIT report are as follows:

There were 1,567 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people living in Albuquerque, a slight increase over the 2019 count of 1,524 homeless. The 2020 homeless count is 2.8% higher than in 2019 and 18.9% more than in 2017, despite the pandemic limiting the 2021 counting efforts.

The 2021 PIT count found that 73.6% of the homeless population was staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing or using motel vouchers rather than sleeping in alleys, parks and other “unsheltered” locations. The 73.6% in the 2021 count is much a higher than the 2019 and 2017 PIT counts.
Albuquerque’s unsheltered homeless decreased from 567 people in 2019 to 413 in the 2021 count.

42% of Albuquerque’s unsheltered were defined as chronically homeless, meaning they had been continuously homeless for at least a year and had a disabling condition.
21% said they were homeless due to COVID.
37% were experiencing homelessness for the first time.
12% were homeless due to domestic violence.
30.19% of the homeless in Albuquerque self-reported as having a serious mental illness.
25.5% self-reported as substance abusers.

The link to quoted statistics is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2402560/homeless-numbers-see-little-change.html

CITY’S FINANCIAL COMMITEMENT TO HELP HOMELESS OR NEAR HOMELESS IN THE MILLIONS

This past fiscal year 2021 ending June 10, 2021, the Family and Community Services Department and the Keller Administration have spent upwards of $40 Million to benefit the homeless or near homeless. The 2021 adopted city budget for Family and Community Services Department provides for emergency shelter contracts totaling $5,688,094, affordable housing and community contracts totaling $22,531,752, homeless support services contracts totaling $3,384,212, mental health contracts totaling $4,329,452, and substance abuse contracts for counseling contracts totaling $2,586,302.

The link to the 2021-2022 city approved budget is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy22-approved-budget-numbered-w-hyperlinks-final.pdf

Mayor Keller’s 2022-2023 approved budget significantly increases the Family and Community Services budget by $24,353,064 to assist the homeless or near homeless by going from $35,145,851 to $59,498,915.

The 2022-2023 proposed budget for the Department of Community Services is $72.4 million and it will have 335 full time employees, or an increase of 22 full time employees.

A breakdown of the amounts to help the homeless and those in need of housing assistance is as follows:

$42,598,361 total for affordable housing and community contracts with a major emphasis on permanent housing for chronically homeless. It is $24,353,064 more than last year.

$6,025,544 total for emergency shelter contracts (Budget page 102.), down $396,354 from last year.

$3,773,860 total for mental health contracts (Budget page105.), down $604,244 from last year.

$4,282,794 total homeless support services, up $658,581 from last year.

$2,818,356 total substance abuse contracts for counseling (Budget page 106.), up by $288,680 from last year.

The link to the 2022-2023 budget it here:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy23-proposed-final-web-version.pdf

The millions being spent each year by the city to deal with the homeless with the “housing first” policy should be more than sufficient to deal with housing the homeless.

BERNALILLO COUNTY BEVHAVIORAL HEALTH TAX FOR SERVICES

On February 26, 2015, the Bernalillo County Commission approved a 1/8% gross receipts tax increase on a 3-2 vote to fund new behavioral and mental health services to improve access to mental and behavioral health care services in the county. The tax generates approximately $20 million annually.

The intent for the tax is to invest the funding “in proven ways to better manage the high cost of addiction, homelessness and mental health problems”. According to a county commission announcement, “these issues impact families throughout the community and drive up the cost of public services, especially at the Metropolitan Detention Center.” The gross receipts tax costs shoppers one cent on a $10 purchase of goods and services.

https://www.bernco.gov/uploads/files/BH%20news%20release%20PDF.pdf

Studies suggest that nearly 50% of Bernalillo County residents needing mental health or addiction treatment services are not getting the help they need because of gaps in New Mexico’s behavioral health care. Untreated behavioral health conditions have led to increased and sometimes tragic interactions with law enforcement and the homeless and mentally ill, jail incarceration, overuse of hospital emergency and inpatient services, and unnecessary suffering on the part of patients and their families.

KOB 4 contacted APD and asked them to quantify how they are enforcing the law when it comes to the low-level, nonviolent offenses committed by the homeless. An APD spokesman told KOB that since the beginning of 2022 there have been issued 2,308 citations to the homeless and issued 614 trespassing notices with 3 trespassing stops revealing outstanding warrants.

The link to the unedited KOB 4 news story is here:

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/unm-law-professor-weighs-in-on-mayors-claims-about-homelessness/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Mayor Tim Keller has been very short sighted and has been feckless in his efforts to convert a facility designed, built and zoned for a hospital or medical services for an overnight homeless shelter that requires special zoning for a “conditional use” or “special use”.

Because Mayor Tim Keller has created a crisis with the closure of Coronado Park, he needs to “rethink” his desire to convert the massive Gibson Medical Center into a 24-7 homeless shelter. Mayor Keller should seek to dedicate the massive 572,000 square-foot Gibson Medical complex to a “Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital And Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center.” This will allow the facility to be used for many who will be displaced from Coronado Park.

The highest and best use for the Gibson Medical Center facility is a hospital or medical facility, the purpose for which it was originally built for and for which it is already zoned. If that happens, there is no need for a “conditional use” or “special use” for the facility. A hospital or medical facility can be open immediately at the Gibson Medical Center, operated 24-7 and making available space for 201 patients and beds.

The Gibson Medical facility needs to be staffed with full time physicians, counselors, social workers and mental health experts to provide the needed care to the homeless who are suffering from addiction or mental illness. Services and medical and mental health care at the center should be offered to the homeless with a “self-commitment” component for a period of time that will guarantee access to the necessary medical and mental health services.

Efforts should be made by the city to seek emergency funding from Bernalillo County Commission and the behavioral health tax with a “Memorandum Of Understanding” for the county to staff the facility while the city operates, maintains it, remodels it and provides security.

For the last 5 years, the Albuquerque City Council has acted as a very silent partner with Mayor Keller and his policies to deal with the homeless. That must stop. In the event that Mayor Keller refuses to reconsider converting the Gibson Medical Center to a homeless shelter, the City Council needs to exert its oversight and budgetary authority and enact a resolution dedicating the Gibson Medical Center as a “Homeless Behavioral Health Hospital And Drug Rehabilitation Treatment Center.” Included in such a resolution would be funding for the project.

Too many elected and government officials, like Mayor Tim Keller, have a hard time dealing with the fact that many homeless adults simply want to live their life as they choose, where they want to camp for as long as they can get away with it, without any government nor family interference and especially no government rules and no regulations. Mayor Tim Keller should find other “housing first” facilities and options for shelters, including remodeling the West Side Shelter.

The city cannot just ignore and not enforce its anti-camping ordinances, vagrancy laws, civil nuisance laws and criminal laws nor pretend they simply do not exist. Unlawful encampment homeless squatters who have no interest in any offers of shelter, beds, motel vouchers from the city or alternatives to living on the street and want to camp at city parks really give the city no choice but to make it totally inconvenient for them to “squat” and force them to move on and out of the city or be arrested by APD for violating our laws.

The city has a moral obligation to help the homeless who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction. Shelters in and of themselves do not address the lack or need to provide medical and psychiatric care and drug rehabilitation and counseling. A homeless behavioral health hospital and drug rehabilitation treatment center at the Gibson Medical Center would fill that void and provide a facility that is absolutely necessary to provide medical health care to the homeless.

Mayor Tim Keller Thumbs Nose At City Council And Public By Allowing Acceptance Of First “Safe Outdoor Spaces” Application; City Says It Intends To Help With Operating Costs; Expect More Applications

On August 2, the Albuquerque Journal reported on its front page that just 2 days after the city began accepting applications for “safe outdoor spaces”, a newly formed corporation identified as Dawn Legacy Pointe has submitted an application. It was reported that Dawn Legacy Pointe intends to create a safe outdoor space at 1250 Menaul NE, a parcel of open space just west of Interstate 25. It proposes accommodating up to 50 residents, the maximum number allowed under current law. All the encampment residents will not be confined to the area and will be able to go and come as they please without restrictions.

There is a vacant building and at least 3 large vacant lots located at 1250 Menaul, NE. Although the Journal reported the address of the property as 1250 Menaul, it did not report the surrounding businesses nor even the school in the area. Less than a half mile and within walking distance from the property is Menaul School, which is a private boarding school for 6th to 12th graders. Directly across the street from the property is the T-Mobile Call Center and a Quality Inn & Suites. Going West on Menaul and one block from the property is Carington College and two apartment complexes. Directly West and bordering the property is Sunset Memorial Park and Cemetery. Immediately East of the Freeway is a truck stop and the Crown Plaza Hotel. It is likely only those in the vicinity who will not object to the Safe Outdoor Spaces homeless encampment are those at Sunset Memorial Park and Cemetary

According to the Journal story, Dawn Legacy Pointe is still in its infancy. Kylea Good is the board chairwoman. She said that Dawn Legacy Pointe submitted corporation formation paperwork to the New Mexico Secretary of State and that it will eventually seek 501c3 status from the IRS. Until then the local nonprofit “Street Safe New Mexico” is overseeing its finances. Good said it will cost an estimated $120,000 to $180,000 to operate the cite its first year. Family and Community Services Director Carol Pierce said that although the project’s budget is not final, the City of Albuquerque intends to help cover the operating costs.

Kylea Good said it would likely be easy to find people and most likely women, though it will not exclude men, willing to stay at the camp. She said she hoped to have the encampment up and running by October and she told the Journal:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we maxxed out. The truth of the matter is it’s not like we’re looking at just one area. There’s a lot of [human] trafficking and exploitation that goes on around that area of Menaul, but you have a whole city that is dealing with it.”

Brad Day, a local businessman and advocate for safe outdoor spaces, is advising Dawn Legacy Pointe. He told the Journal:

“We did all the documents, and now what we’re going to do is basically work on the logistics of getting all the stuff we need, the tents, the sleeping bags, the air mattresses, get the fence built.”

The link to the full unedited Journal news article is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2521238/city-sees-1st-application-for-safe-outdoor-space.html

OTHER APPLICATIONS EXPECTED DESPITE MORITORIUM REQUEST AND POTENTIAL REPEAL OF SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES

On July 19, the on line news agency the New Mexico Sun broke the story that applications for “safe outdoor spaces” have been filed with the city Planning Department and that private funding is being sought for at least 6 encampments. An application for safe outdoor space zoning will lock into the existing zoning laws when the zoning application is completed. In the interim between when the Integrated Development Ordinance amendment goes into effect and when the provision is repealed, the application can be processed and approved by the city.

It was on June 6, the City Council enacted an amendment to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) to allow for city sanctioned “Safe Outdoor Spaces”. “Safe Outdoor Spaces” are city sanctioned homeless encampments located in open space areas that will allow upwards of 50 homeless people to camp, require hand washing stations, toilets and showers, require a management plan, 6-foot fencing and provide for social services.

Safe outdoor spaces are allowed in some non-residential and mixed-use zones and must be at least 330 feet from zones with low-density residential development. The restrictions do not apply to campsites operated by religious institutions. Under the IDO amendments, Safe Outdoor Spaces are allowed for up to two years with a possible two-year extension.

On June 22, after tremendous public outcry and objections, two bills were introduced that would repeal safe outdoor spaces. One bill introduced would stop the city from accepting or approving safe outdoor space applications and the other will eliminate “safe outdoor spaces” from the zoning code altogether. During the June 22 meeting the council did not act on the two bills and failed to enact the legislation that was to provide for rules and regulations promulgated by the Keller Administration for “safe outdoor spaces”.

June 22 was the last meeting of the City Council before it went on “summer break” until August 1. The city council’s failure to take action on either the bills stopping the application process or repealing the land use resolution resulted in “safe outdoor spaces” becoming a permissible land use on July 28 and people can apply for the land use.

During the August 1 City Council meeting, Republican City Councilor Brook Basaan successfully pushed for an expedited vote on the moratorium bill. With support from Republican City Councilors Renee Grout, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis and Democrats Klarissa Peña and Louie Sanchez, Bassan was able pull the bill out of the Council’s standard committee process. Voting against the measure were Democrats Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn. The vote on the moratorium is now scheduled for an August 15 vote.

MAYOR KELLER ANNOUNCES ADMINISTRATION IS “REVISITING” HOMELESS POLICIES

It was Mayor Tim Keller who initially proposed the idea of “Safe Outdoor Spaces” in his 2022-2023 city budget. The 2022-2023 proposed budget released on April 1 provides major funding to deal with the homeless. The budget approved includes the following line-item funding:

“$750,000 for proposed “safe outdoor spaces”. … If approved by Council, will enable ultra-low barrier encampments to set up in vacant dirt lots across the City. There is an additional $200,000 for developing other sanctioned encampment programs.”

On Saturday, June 25, Mayor Tim Keller gave his “State of The City” address. Keller bought up the city’s homeless crisis. Keller noted that homelessness is “on display in so many areas in our city”. Keller had this to say:

“We have to open new ways, new pathways, to longstanding problems and try new approaches. We’ve got to be agile, we’ve got to learn, and we’ve got to keep creating pathways to stability. That is why we are revisiting our approach to homelessness and encampments.”

On July 6, after intense public outcry and objections over “safe outdoor spaces” Mayor Tim Keller again announced that his administration is “revisiting” its policies on how it addresses homeless encampments that are increasing in number throughout the city. Keller expressed the intent to initiate major changes on how to deal legally with homeless encampments.

The links to quoted news sources are here:

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/city-of-albuquerque-revisits-policy-in-hopes-to-combat-homelessness/

https://www.abqjournal.com/2513915/keller-to-revisit-citys-encampment-strategy.html

CLOSURE OF CORONADO PARK

On July 25, Mayor Tim Keller announced closure of the unsanctioned homeless encampment at Coronado Park. Over the last 10 years, Coronado Park became the “de facto” city sanctioned homeless encampment with the city repeatedly cleaning it up only for the homeless to return the next day. City officials have said it is costing the city $27,154 every two weeks or $54,308 a month to clean up the park only to allow the homeless encampment to return. The major factor in closing the park is crime.

Criminal activity has spiked at the park over the past three years. The city park has an extensive history lawlessness including drug use, violence, murder, rape and mental health issues. City officials said that upwards 120 people camp nightly at the park. Homeless occupants will be told of other housing options offered by the city. The city will continue to offer services and housing options to those using Coronado Park, including making limited property storage available to those who are interested or in need of it.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It is pretty damn amazing when Kylea Good proclaims that the Safe Outdoor Space encampment she is advocating for will likely be occupied by woman first saying “I wouldn’t be surprised if we maxxed out. The truth of the matter is it’s not like we’re looking at just one area. There’s a lot of [human] trafficking and exploitation that goes on around that area of Menaul.” When she uses the words “trafficking and exploitation”, she is talking about woman who are victims of crime such as kidnapping or forced prostitution. She is saying that she wants to provide tents in city sanction encampments to woman who have already been victimized believing she is somehow being compassionate when such woman need actual, permanent housing that is safe and secured and not living in a tent city.

Both Kylea Good and Brad Day are being way too presumptuous, if not downright sneaky, with the application and their plans to establish a safe outdoor space and their attempts to give the perception or ostensibly believing that it’s a done deal. They both know the council could very easily repeal the IDO amendments on August 15, but they refuse to take no for an answer and persist with the applications. This is what you call just ignoring public opposition to a zoning policy. This is what you call cramming you own political agenda down the public’s throats.

The truth is, and despite what Kylea Good and Brad Day may believe, the application for a safe outdoor space as a “permissive use” or “conditional use” is only the first step in the process. A Zoning Hearing Examiner must review and decide if the special safe outdoor space use will be allowed. Public notice must be given to surrounding property owners and the general public. A notice of zone change must be posted on the property and adjoining landowners and neighborhood must be given the opportunity to attend and be heard by the zoning hearing officer. Whatever the zoning hearing officer decides can be appealed to the Albuquerque City Council who has ultimate and final authority to grant or deny the award of the permissive use or conditional use zone change.

This is what you call an arrogant Mayor Tim Keller and an equally arrogant Family and Community Services Director Carol Pierce thumbing their noses at the Albuquerque City Council and the public. When Pierce announces that the City intends to help cover the operating costs of the Dawn Legacy Pointe “Safe Oudoor Space” encampment even before it has been approved, she no doubt had the blessing of Keller. The funding no doubt will come from the $750,000 approved by the City Council in the 2022-2023 budget for “Safe Outdoor Spaces.” If she did not have Keller’s blessing, he owes the public an explanation and she needs to be disciplined or perhaps removed as Director of the Family and Community Services Department.

If Mayor Tim Keller was truly committed to “revisiting” his policies on the homeless as he has said, then he should have issued an executive order suspending or placing a “moratorium” on the application process for “safe outdoor spaces”. He has such executive authority to give such an order to the Planning and Zoning Department and Planning Department Director Alan Varela, but he did not.

What Mayor Keller should have learned from Coronado Park, and all the violent crime that has occurred there, is that government sanctioned homeless encampments that “Safe Outdoor Spaces” embody simply do not work. They are magnets for crime and will likely become a public nuisance that is injurious to public health, safety and welfare and will interfere with the exercise and enjoyment of public rights, including the right to use public property. The practical effect of the Safe Outdoor Spaces will be to create “mini” Coronado Parks.

The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city, but it can and must be managed. Providing a very temporary place to pitch a tent, relieve themselves, bathe and sleep at night with rules they do not want nor will likely follow is not the answer to the homeless crisis and is what safe outdoor spaces represent. The answer is to provide the support services, including food and lodging, and mental health care needed to allow the homeless to turn their lives around, become productive self-sufficient citizens, no longer dependent on relatives or others.

Mayor Tim Keller should issue and executive ordered moratorium to be in place until the City Council has the opportunity to vote one way or the other on August 15 to repeal the legislation authorizing Safe Outdoor Spaces and enact rules and regulations on managing safe outdoor spaces if there is a failure to repeal. Should the City Council repeal the Safe Outdoor Space amendment, they need to take it a step further and defund the $750,000 for operation of Safe Outdoor Spaces and the $200,000 for developing other sanctioned encampment programs.

Mayor Keller’s failure to act amounts nothing more than refusing to respect the Albuquerque City Council as a policy body and the public who opposes the government sanction encampments know as Safe Outdoor spaces.

The Keller Administration has adopted a housing first policy when it comes to dealing with the homeless crisis. Safe Outdoor spaces encampments violates the city’s “housing first” policy by not providing a form of permanent housing.

The 2022-2023 adopted city contains $4 million in recurring funding and $2 million in one-time funding for supportive housing programs in the City’s Housing First model and $24 million in Emergency Rental Assistance from the federal government.

“Safe Outdoor Spaces” will be a disaster for the city as a whole. They will destroy neighborhoods, make the city a magnet for the homeless and destroy the city’s efforts to manage the homeless through housing. If the City allows applications for “safe outdoor spaces” to proceed and approves them, it will be a major setback for the city and its current policy of seeking permanent shelter and housing as the solution to the homeless crisis.

The public needs to make their opinions known and tell Mayor Tim Keller to issue an executive order suspending or placing a moratorium on the application process and tell city councilors to demand that he issue such an order so that they can vote on the repeal.

The email addresses and phone numbers to contact Mayor Keller and Interim Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael and each City Councilor and the Director of Counsel services are as follows:

MAYOR’S OFFICE PHONE: (505) 768-3000
CITY COUNCIL PHONE: (505) 768-3100

EMAIL ADDRESSES

tkeller@cabq.gov
lrael@cabq.gov

lesanchez@cabq.gov
louiesanchez@allstate.com
ibenton@cabq.gov
kpena@cabq.gov
bbassan@cabq.gov
danlewis@cabq.gov
LEWISABQ@GMAIL.COM
patdavis@cabq.gov
tfiebelkorn@cabq.gov
trudyjones@cabq.gov
rgrout@cabq.gov
cmelendrez@cabq.gov