The removal of the Central and Wyoming bus shelter has met with mixed reaction
BY MATTHEW REISEN
A East Central Avenue bus stop shelter that had been a magnet for criminals, and the scene of multiple stabbings and armed robberies, has been removed in the hopes that the criminals will go elsewhere.
The shelter, on the Northwest corner of Central and Wyoming, was removed nearly two months ago – after years of complaints, police service calls and rampant crime.
According to Albuquerque Police Department records, 1,100 calls were made to the location in the past 12 months, almost 400 of those since the beginning of 2017, and over 150 calls occurring since the removal.
The calls involved everything from stabbings and armed robbery to auto theft and suicide.
ABQ Ride spokesman Rick De Reyes said the decision was made to remove the shelter in December with the actual removal occurring on Feb. 27 and 28.
“The hope was that there would be a significant decrease in loitering at this stop location,” De Reyes said.
City Councilor Pat Davis said his office found that location to be one of Albuquerque’s “top ten” locations for police service calls, resulting in “hundreds of thousands [of dollars]” being spent over the years.
Police Call Tallies For The Past 12 Months At the Central/Wyoming Bus Stop
Aggravated Assault/Battery: 34
Armed Robbery: 6
Auto Theft: 17
APD told Davis that most of the offenses being committed were done by people who were using the bus stop as a hangout and weren’t actually riding the bus.
“The neighbors have really seen that as a problem,” Davis said. “It became a place where people who were riding the bus were afraid to use it.”
The neighborhood association applauded the removal at a recent meeting after it was noticed that calls for service in that area had “decreased by about half” in the last couple of weeks.
“That’s a sign already that something changed there,” Davis said. “We’re going to watch it, as it gets warmer, and see what happens.”
Davis called the removal a “smart move” and said the neighbors are “really happy” about the decision.
“This is a serious issue of being sure we draw a line and be sure that people don’t get the message that they can just hang out and harass and rob and victimize customers,” Davis said.
De Reyes said the removal decision wasn’t the first attempt to curb the issues in the area.
Over the past two years, the Transit Department cooperated with other agencies on different tactics, he said, including increased transit security patrols, increased APD patrols, and outreach efforts by local organizations to help some of the homeless at the stop to get housing and some health benefits.
“For a time, the increased patrols and outreach seemed to help break up the loitering at the stop, but this didn’t seem to satisfactorily address the problem,” De Reyes said.
Cristobal Martinez has worked at convenience stores across Albuquerque for the last seven years and is now the assistant manager at the Central and Wyoming Circle K for four months. He’s convinced that the crime he has seen at the bust stop is the worst he’s seen.
“It wasn’t even a bus stop, to be considered that,” he said.
Martinez said people treated the stop as “their home” and attributed the crime and violence to many people hanging out, selling drugs, among other things.
“There was nothing but problems there all the time,” Martinez said. “I’ve had people get in my face – throw cups of ice at me – just because I told them to get out of the front of my store.”
Martinez added that many people would panhandle off customers and the atmosphere had a negative effect on customers and employees alike.
“It was bringing down the store, sales plummeted when all that was happening,” Martinez said. “A lot of my employees have quit since working here, because they’re afraid.”
Martinez noted that, since the removal, things have changed “a little bit.”
“It’s calmed down a lot more but it’s still hectic,” he said. “It’s an ongoing saga with these people out here.”
Martinez said the removal has had a positive impact on the area.
“I’m happy that it’s gone to be honest with you,” Martinez said, remaining skeptical of the long term. “But let’s see how long.”
Brooke Lindsey, who has been riding the bus for decades, called the decision to remove the shelter “cruel.”
“If you are homeless, where else are you going to go?” she said.
While there is a lot of criminal activity in the neighborhood, it only reflects badly on people who are “down and out,” Lindsey said, calling the problems more of a systemic issue.
“It’s not their fault that they are victims of this,” she said, adding that the removal isn’t going to reduce the crime rate, but just put homeless people in a worse position.
“Maybe people are going to die now because they’ll be stuck in the elements,” Lindsey said. “Maybe that’s what they want – for people to just die.”
Lindsey, who has been homeless herself, thought the sheltered bus stops were nice and they should, if anything, have more in the area – not less.
“It’s nice to be able to go somewhere,” she said. “It’s just a bus stop – I don’t see what the big deal is – they just don’t care about those people or something.”
Looking toward the future, Davis said new shelters will be put in around the city equipped with solar lights and will be open so you can see around you.
Davis said the transit department will continue to monitor the Central and Wyoming stop, as well as get feedback from the riders to see if they feel safer and more comfortable using the new stop.
“If all that points to yes, I think we’ve done the right thing,” he said. “For the moment, it seems like taking that old style stop out has had the right impact.”
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