Downtown Albuquerque residents defend their neighborhood

Susan Meyer and Carol Herber walk through their downtown neighborhood
Susan Meyer and Carol Herber walk through their downtown neighborhood

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Downtown Albuquerque residents are coming to their neighborhood’s defense after a technology company threatened to leave town because they think the area is too dangerous.

“We’re both older and yet not afraid to be out and about downtown,” said Susan Heber.

Heber and her husband have lived downtown for 12 years, and their neighbor Carolyn Meyer has lived there for seven.

“I’ve never been in a situation that I found scary,” said Meyer.

Heber and Meyer’s favorite part about living downtown is that they can walk to “just about” everything they need. They say they walk around before and after normal business hours, and have never been in a dangerous situation.

However, a business one block away from their apartment feels differently.

“Their little green guy, their logo, is what I see from my bedroom window. We’re right there,” said Carolyn Meyer who has lived downtown for seven years.

The green logo Meyer sees is that of Lavu, a technology company based in Albuquerque.

In a letter sent to Gov. Susana Martinez and Mayor Richard Berry, the president of Lavu, Ohad Jehassi, said the company is having serious discussions about “the need to move Lavu to an office located outside of downtown Albuquerque” because of safety concerns.

In the letter, Jehassi sites specific instances of employees either becoming victims of crime or being harassed.

“I wouldn’t let that stereotype, a few bad incidents, (shadow) what an overall downtown dynamic change is happening,” said Gilbert Montano, Mayor Berry’s chief of staff.

Montano recognizes the fact that “aggressive panhandling” and “sketchy areas” do exist in downtown, and that they do create a safety risk.

“It is something that we take very serious, and it’s a priority and we’re certainly trying to address it as quickly as possible,” said Montano.

Montano says the plan is to address downtown problems in a series of ways.

“Overall evaluation of dynamic that they’re facing, over saturation of specific types of officers to deal with specific core issues, and lastly a multi-departmental phase issue that could address other issues besides enforcement like cleanliness and social programs,” said Montano.

Montano says certain issues like homelessness and crime, “won’t ever go away,” but each city can handle how they address it.

Montano says the mayor’s office thinks a long-term solution, like better mental health care, is important to solving some of Downtown’s problems.

Meyer and Heber know downtown is not without its problems. During this interview, they were stopped by a panhandler. However, they don’t see situations like that as a reason to not come to, or to leave, downtown Albuquerque.

“I think it’s better to stay and take a stand and try and fix the situation. Rather than think you’re going to solve anything by moving away. You might make people feel better temporarily but problems will follow wherever you go,” said Meyer.

The duo says they hope more people will give downtown a try, and come experience the restaurants and entertainment it has to offer.

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