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Santa Fe merchants: Downtown ‘needs to be protected’

One of Santa Fe Police Department's Mobile Video Trailers sits on the Santa Fe Plaza. SFPD already has four MVTs and wants to buy four more. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Santa Fe police recently stationed this Mobile Video Trailer near the southwest corner of the Plaza in an effort to deter crime. But local merchants say not enough is being done to protect the part of town they say is the economic driver of the city. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Local merchants painted a dangerous picture of downtown Santa Fe during a meeting Tuesday evening, and called on the mayor and the Police Department to clean up the part of town they say is the economic driver of the city.

About 50 merchants gathered at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center to share concerns with Mayor Alan Webber and top brass from the Santa Fe Police Department in light of recent robberies and other low-level crimes that have happened in the downtown area.

Some complained of verbal harassment from panhandlers, burglaries and break-ins, having to clean up vomit and feces, finding drug paraphernalia scattered about, as well as excessive noise coming from local bars late at night.

While some people who spoke at the meeting said they understood that the Police Department was understaffed, they said the downtown area should have a stronger police presence because of the tourism dollars it generates for the city.

“I’m walking down San Francisco Street and it looks like trash,” said Nick Maryol, owner of Tia Sophia’s restaurant. “This area is the reason people come to Santa Fe. It needs to be protected like it’s an asset. This is the moneymaker.”

Others were frustrated with police response times, and some said officers never showed up at all.

Melissa Moore, manager of Collected Works bookstore, and property manager of Casitas de los Cornell apartments at Water and Galisteo streets, said she is “constantly dealing with defecation and vomit.”

Moore also complained about the volume of music coming from the nightlife trifecta of Evangelo’s, The Matador and Crowbar, all of which are near Galisteo and San Francisco. The late-night noise has an effect on people who want to live and work downtown, she said.

One merchant said he has seen “unspeakable things” on the Plaza, though he declined to elaborate for the group.

In response to complaints it had already received, the Santa Fe Police Department has initiated an operation it calls “Downtown Focus.”

Police started on the initiative last month by gathering data for an action plan; that plan is expected to be executed starting Feb. 22. A police bicycle team will also patrol the area seven days a week.

Police have also stationed a Mobile Video Trailer equipped with cameras at the southwest corner of the historic downtown Plaza.

“What you all are saying is unacceptable, and we understand that, and trust me when I say this is one of our priorities,” SFPD patrol Capt. Matt Champlin told the group.

Mayor Webber attributed the problem partly to a lack of behavioral health services, which he said were gutted by former Gov. Susana Martinez.

“You’re witnessing the result of that being torn apart,” Webber said.

Webber also said the city is working on rewriting the city’s noise ordinance.

SFPD Chief Andrew Padilla and Deputy Chief Paul Joye were in attendance, along with City Councilors Renee Villarreal, Signe Lindell and Michael J. Garcia.

Merchants have organized another meeting – this one focusing on issues pertaining to the Railyard and Guadalupe Street business districts – for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, also at the convention center.

The merchants plan a follow-up meeting in about six weeks.