Officials say some homeless are using sprinklers as showers at Los Altos Park

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Parks and Rec officials say some homeless people are vandalizing sprinkler heads to take showers in city parks. Officials say while the problem is widespread, Los Altos Park has been hit the hardest.

“Over the years I’ve seen it get really bad over here, with the homeless, and for a couple years I’ve really avoided the place,” said Park Visitor Justin Moore.

Parks and Rec officials agree the problem is only getting worse, especially since tent cities along I-40 were dismantled.

“When that happened, most of those people ended up at Los Altos Park,” said Albuquerque Parks and Rec Director Barbara Taylor.

Those homeless people need basic necessities, like water, and with nowhere to get it, officials say they’re vandalizing sprinkler heads.

Taylor said, “The pool’s not open late at night so you’ve got an opportunity to manipulate the head to take a shower.”

Or they say people will mess with the heads to keep their sleeping spots dry.

“We water all of our parks overnight. That makes the park wet and uncomfortable for sleeping, so we get vandalism to turn those heads,” said Taylor.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal but the costs really add up. Right now the city is spending $70,000 a year just to replace sprinkler heads at parks and a ton of water is also wasted.

“You’re looking at 900 gallons in just that one damaged sprinkler head and if you have multiple sprinkler heads, you can do the math, you’re talking about thousands of gallons of water in just one occurrence,” said Parks and Rec Superintendent Mark Chavez.

The city says APD is helping by stepping up night patrols in the park. Parks and Rec also added its own security a few nights a week, but they say that’s not enough to stop the vandals.

Some park visitors say if the homeless can’t be kept out, maybe the city should try to accommodate them.

“Putting in some water facets for them would be the cheapest and easiest solution,” said Park Visitor Daniel Wilson.

Moving those sprinkler heads also led to another problem recently. A softball team showed up to play a game one morning, and found their entire field flooded, because someone had pointed the sprinklers in the direction of the field.

Officials say each of those sprinkler heads cost about $60 to replace, and sometimes, vandals will walk up and down an entire row, destroying one after the other.

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