Coronado Park calls to police plummeted this year - Albuquerque Journal

Coronado Park calls to police plummeted this year

(Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

In explaining the recent decision to close Coronado Park, city officials have consistently mentioned mounting criminal activity at the site.

Mayor Tim Keller in a July news conference called the park, which hosted a large, unsanctioned homeless encampment, “the most dangerous place in the state of New Mexico.” In an interview last month, he said violence and drug use at the park “had reached a breaking point.”

But newly released numbers from the Albuquerque Police Department show that officers responded to far fewer calls for service at Coronado Park in 2022 than in previous years. From Jan. 1 to July 31 of this year, officers responded to 418 calls at the park, according to data APD provided in response to Journal questions.

That’s compared to 796 during the equivalent period last year and 817 for the same span in 2020.

It was lower than 2019 (791) and 2018 (666) as well.

A police spokeswoman attributed the decline in part to park residents’ fear of making reports, citing the residents’ conversations with officers.

“Due to the organized criminal activity in the park, many people were not calling APD to report crimes that were occurring. There were fears regarding retaliation, etc,” spokeswoman Rebecca Atkins said in an email.

She also said that while there were many fewer calls for service, they “were much more violent in nature than in years past,” though she said she could not provide data to demonstrate that until next week.

Coronado Park’s closure has generated intense public interest, with some people cheering the move and others complaining the city had no clear path forward.

Until this summer, Keller himself had resisted the idea of closing the park.

As recently as June — after the fifth homicide at or immediately near the park since April 2018 — the mayor said that shuttering the park would likely make problems worse, as people who camped there would likely flow into nearby neighborhoods looking for a place to sleep.

When he reversed course in July and announced the city would in fact close the park, he and others cited physical damage to the property and the city resources regularly expended to clean it.

But mostly they focused on the crime.

“It’s just ridiculous on the numbers specifically to violent crime and the amount of drugs that have been seized in the park,” APD Lt. Nick Wheeler said at a July news conference.

In a July 26 news released titled “Increasing Violent Crime at Coronado Park Main Contributor to Closure,” APD cited the amount of drugs and guns seized at the park in the preceding 30 days. They listed 4,500 fentanyl pills, over 5 pounds of methamphetamine, 24 grams of heroin, 29 grams of cocaine, three handguns and one shotgun. However, all of that was seized during a single bust at a motel about a half-mile away from the park rather than the park itself.

A police spokeswoman has said the suspect “was mainly doing all their distributions (at the park).”

APD also has alleged that the suspect in that case traded drugs for stolen goods brought by people who frequented Coronado Park.

Asked earlier this month if data shows Coronado Park has become violent, APD Chief Harold Medina said, “I don’t think we can rely on it” and expressed concern that much of it goes unreported.

“I think we’d be doing a disservice to the community by saying that we’re just basing it off what’s reported. This is a place where we know individuals don’t always call police,” he said.

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