Neighbors: Albuquerque park now magnet for crime

Families say park is now overrun with homeless, crime

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a nice park with a playground for kids and picnic tables. But neighbors who live near the park, say they won’t take their kids there.

The City of Albuquerque’s Parks and Recreation crew cleaned up trash at Bel Air-Miramontes Park in northeast Albuquerque Tuesday. However, neighbors claim that doesn’t stop the bigger problem.

From a distance, Bel-Air park near Carlisle and Menaul looks inviting.

“It’s been a beautiful park, we’ve watched it transition from being a dirt field to a small park in the corner, to a beautiful green park that the neighborhood people go and walk their dogs,” explained Mike Bertetto, who lives near Bel-Air Park.

Bertetto grew up in the area. He and others tell KRQE News 13 the park has been less than inviting lately for families.

KRQE News 13 checked out the problem first-hand. Right next to an empty playground sits an empty liquor bottle. It’s apparent a group of people have moved in.

“It seems like this warm weather has hit that the homeless have just taken over that whole west end of the park,” Bertetto explained.

Bertetto said that’s just the beginning. He and other neighbors claim the park is getting trashed.

There are sleeping bags, full shopping carts overturned, and homeless people sleeping on picnic tables.

KRQE News 13’s camera spotted people passed out throughout the park, while others were just waking up in the middle of the day.

But for those who live near the park, the biggest concern is crime.

“It’s scary, it is,” said Bertetto. “Sadly they don’t have anywhere to go, but a lot of them are too busy putting junk in their arm and drinking, and don’t choose to get help,” Bertetto told News 13.

needle in arm cropped
Photo taken by neighbor showing man with apparent needle in arm

Neighbors said they’ve seen some of the crime first-hand.

One neighbor snapped photos of someone in the park with what appears to be a needle in his arm. Another photo shows a person holding a syringe.

One of the homeless men told KRQE News 13 he’s been staying at the park for a while.

“It’s just how I wound up, it’s what I asked for,” the man told KRQE News 13.

“I have to sober up, you know, for things to change.”

The man admitted he struggled with drug addiction. KRQE News 13 told him about local resources and gave him phone numbers to call in case he decided to get help.

“I want to ask for help, but then I don’t want to,” the man told KRQE News 13. He said he wants to try and turn his life around. “I’m trying to, it don’t happen overnight, you know what I mean?”

“We have our outreach teams, the city provides so many services especially through 311, but we can’t make them take them,” said Celina Espinoza, Community Outreach Director for the Albuquerque Police Department.

Unless someone is caught committing a crime, police and park officials said the homeless have every right to be in the park during park hours.

“We have had an increase in calls for service at this park, so we are getting cooperation from the neighbors who are calling in that activity and we are responding to it,” Espinoza explained.

“They’ve actually point-blank told me there’s nothing they can do until 10 o’clock at night ’till 6 in the morning,” Bertetto said. “And it’s really sad to use our resources to go do that.”

KRQE News 13 returned to the park Tuesday night and spotted an ambulance, police and fire crews. Officers on scene said EMS crews were responding to an alcohol-related medical call. A woman was hauled away from the park on a stretcher and loaded onto the ambulance.

“I don’t know what the answer is, I know we’re all tired of it in the Bel-Air district,” said Bertetto.

Espinoza said the APD area command for the park is working on a tact plan to tackle crime in the area. She said there will also be more officers patrolling near the park.

After KRQE News 13 inquired about this problem, APD put in a request to place their mobile surveillance cameras in the park at some point.

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