ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A multi-million dollar major cash infusion could now help transform one of the city’s older neighborhoods that’s been battling crime problems for years.
Some voters may not know it, but among the public safety bonds that passed in the October 3 municipal election was $3 million for a new police area command building in southeast Albuquerque.
The money brings the project about halfway toward becoming a reality. The plan is to build the new hub at the corner of San Mateo Boulevard and Kathryn Avenue SE, the former site of the Parkland Hills shopping center that neighbors pushed the city to tear down for years.
Police officers, police staff, volunteers and community support personnel — like crime prevention specialists, housing and court service staff — could all work out of the building.
For neighbors, the bond victory is an answer to what they’ve been hoping for: a large investment in a neighborhood that hasn’t seen many, recently.
“I’m super excited about the police substation,” said Letitia Tomaszewski, a southeast Albuquerque resident.
Tomaszewski is among a group of other neighbors who’ve been fighting for change in the neighborhood that’s seen a lot of crime over the years.
“We have the homeless, we have residents here who are dealing with drug addiction, we have violence, and we have children, we have a school right down the street,” said Tomaszewski.
In 2016, the city responded to neighbor concerns by purchasing the property at San Mateo and Kathryn, and tearing down the one remaining building on the site.
While it’s stopped the fires at some of the property that existed with the old building, Tomaszewski says many of the problems remain near San Mateo and Kathryn.
“We still see violence, we still see property crime,” said Tomaszewski. “A lot of it has now dispersed into the neighborhoods.”
“It’s concerning,” said David Dabny, who also lives near San Mateo and Kathryn. “Just about three months ago there were two separate gun deaths over by Blake’s and right behind us, in the streets, these apartments.”
City Councilor Pat Davis says Albuquerque Police’s southeast area command is the busiest in Albuquerque.
“They take more calls, and we have more officers than any other part of the city, but we also have one of the smallest police stations,” said Davis.
For Davis, the corner of San Mateo and Kathryn is a natural fit for an increased police presence. The plan is to turn the tide of violence in the area with a new hub dedicated to community policing.
“A police station that can accommodate 20 percent more police officers, rooms for community meetings, a bicycle garage for bicycle patrols,” said Davis. “We’re talking about building a new substation that goes from about 9,000 square feet, the size of a regular office, to one that’s more than 24,000 square feet.”
Under the current plan, the new San Mateo and Kathryn area command will replace the old police substation at Kathryn and Louisiana, a building that’s said to be falling apart.
“It’s the city’s commitment to not just community policing but to rebuilding a neighborhood that’s been really troubling,” said Davis.
For neighbors who’ve been waiting for a change, the main concern now is making sure the city’s investment brings more than just police officers. They’re asking for a place where community members can be involved, too.
“We’d like to see a family-friendly site with multiple services,” said Tomaszewski.
“To have a space that’s really productive that’s really community friendly, community-oriented, that helps people in the community kind of get back on their feet, that would be great,” said Enrique Cardiel, another southeast Albuquerque neighbor.
There are still a few hurdles though before the station can be built. Davis tells KRQE News 13 that the $3 million from the new bonds should fund a design and planning for the new building.
Another $3 million or more will be needed to build the area command station. Currently, the idea is to put another $3 million request for funding for the substation on the 2019 bond election ballot.
Current plans call for the Albuquerque Police area command station to sit on the corner of the property at San Mateo and Kathryn, while a city park or community center would sit on the remaining portion of vacant land.