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Editorial: BCSO substation in Far NE Heights deserves support

One could argue — and the Journal has — that city-county consolidation makes sense, given that both the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County provide many of the same services, including police and fire protection, in adjacent areas and sometimes overlap. But voters have rejected consolidation three times over the years, most recently in resounding fashion in 2004. There have been no serious discussions since then.

So against that backdrop of reality, Bernalillo County’s proposal to build a sheriff’s substation in the unincorporated area of the far Northeast Heights doesn’t just make sense. It’s a good idea that’s overdue and one that deserves the support of Albuquerque area legislators and the governor.

The county is seeking $350,000 as part of its legislative infrastructure requests to purchase land and design the facility. It has made it one of its top three priorities for the session just underway in Santa Fe.

Although many people may not realize it, a sizeable area north of Paseo del Norte stretching east past Eubank and Tramway and then to the south is part of unincorporated Bernalillo County. That means those residents and businesses rely on sheriff’s deputies to patrol and answer calls for service. Currently those calls are being handled by the BCSO north area command based in Los Ranchos — miles away from places like Sandia Heights, the Outpost Ice Arena and County Line restaurant.

The area is growing rapidly and also includes developments such as Tramway Estates, Paramount Estates, Sunset Hills Estates and one probably more familiar to the general public: North Albuquerque Acres. The area is home to Prince of Peace Catholic Church, Church of the Good Shepherd and the Church of St. Peter, the Altamont Little League complex and two APS elementary schools — Double Eagle and North Star. Not to mention a wide range of businesses.

The county already has a significant footprint in the area. Its emergency communications center is located just to the east and north of the intersection of Eubank and Paseo del Norte, and it operates a fire station just west of Tramway off Paseo.

Of course it would make dollars and sense to see if either of these county facilities has enough additional land to use for a new BCSO substation before acquiring a separate parcel. It’s a possibility the county should explore.

BCSO has substations now in Tijeras to serve the East Mountains as well as in Los Ranchos and the South Valley. The North Command in Los Ranchos last year had 26,597 calls for services — fewer than the South Command in the Valley but more than East Command in Tijeras. The department currently has about 350 sworn officers — and unlike the Albuquerque Police Department, BCSO says it WILL respond to calls like auto break-ins in your driveway whereas APD tells you to file a report online. There is something reassuring in that.

“With a new substation and more deputies assigned to each area of command, the hope is that this will lower response time for calls countywide,” BCSO spokeswoman Jayme Fuller said. And an increased police presence is a deterrent in and of itself.

Police protection is one of the most essential of public services. It is the county’s obligation to provide it in this area, and wherever it is located, a new substation in the quadrant would make policing more efficient and effective.

It’s a modest funding request and one that should have widespread support.