Nob Hill Residents Blasting Mad About Pipe Bombs

   photo-4      From the left: Scott Cameron, Rep. Gail Chasey, concerned parent

Residents of Nob Hill gathered at Monte Vista Elementary to voice their concerns about a nearby State Parole & Probation Office. The Town Hall meeting took place in the cafeteria and was attended by more than 50 parents, residents, and concerned citizens. The citizens are upset that the Department of Corrections has not moved the office to a new site despite repeated requests from the district. The latest pipe bomb incident at the office put the school into a shelter-in-place and was the last straw for most residents.  Scott Cameron, a parent, organized the Town Hall meeting to show the city and the state that the citizen’s are fed up and want action.

The meeting was attended by multiple public officials including:

Senator Cisco McSorley, (D) District 16

Rep. Gail Chasey, (D) District 18

Rep. Cheryl Williams Stapleton, (D) District 19

City Councilor Rey Garduno, District 6

Gilbert Montano- Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of the City of ABQ

Officer John Sullivan-Lieutenant S.E. Area Command, APD

Scott Cameron explained that 530 parents at Monte Vista Elementary have signed a petition demanding that the Department of Corrections recognize that the safety of the children is being compromised and that the Department put the children ahead of cost considerations.  Senator McSorely stated that he was surprised that the APS did not send a representative to the meeting to hear what the parents and residents had to say. Sen. McSorley said that, “This shows how much they [APS] care about the children.”

The Office has been at that location for over 30 years and has only recently become the focus of intense feelings amongst residents. Over the last 9 months there have been two separate incidents in which Monte Vista has had to enact a shelter-in-place. In April, a woman fled the office after she was notified that she had failed a drug test. She ran across the street and entered the school. She was found hiding in the girl’s bathroom. Last month, 2 pipe bombs were thrown at the office during school hours. The children were released to their parents at a specific pick-up point after a few hours. The bombs were detonated after the children left the area. In response to longevity, one of the parents pointed out’ “you need to leave…we were here first.”

The Department of Corrections responded to the most recent incident by increasing security in the area. Armed Officers, carrying AR-15 Assault Rifles, began patrolling the sidewalks and streets around the office. School officials complained that the sight of the weapons was threatening and scared the children. The Department quickly changed its policy and the Officer’s no longer carry the weapons.

The Department of Corrections sent their Public Affairs Director, Alex Tomlin, to the Town Hall meeting. She stated that the Department has been searching for a new location for over 2 years. She claimed that moving the office is very challenging and noted that there are several criteria that must be met by a new location. She stated that the Department has evaluated 20 different sites in the last 2 years and only one of those sites, the Maya Plaza Downtown, is viable. Unfortunately, they have received resistance from the surrounding community and need to do further assessments. Community members pushed the issue by demanding that she give them a timeframe for a move. She said that it is impossible for her to know and that she cannot make any promises. The Department hopes “to move quickly” was her only answer.

Councilor Garduno bluntly addressed Director Tomlin about the lease and the true issues behind the reluctance to move. He stated that the Kapnison’s , who own Yanni’s Mediterranian Bar in Nob Hill, also own the building where the Office is located. He claims that they have a lot of “political sway” and that could be the reason why the Office is still located there. He reminisced about an incident when the building was cited for multiple code violations. He said that he was stunned when the violations were removed in less than 2 weeks. He said that the speed at which the violations were corrected was impossible and that something “strange was going on.” He called the building “gold plated.” Scott Cameron came to the defense of the Kapnison’s by saying that they want the Office out of their building as well.

Representative Gail Chasey included that the Office was not the only problem that the Department of Corrections faces. She said that New Mexico lags behind other states when it comes to alternative ways to handle Parole & Probation. She pointed out that North Carolina uses ankle bracelets that detect alcohol and drugs. The bracelet’s send messages if these substances are detected. Rep. Chasey believes that a system in which individuals in the system are visited at work would be much better and would eliminate the need for the office.

Senator McSorley agreed and added that the Parole & Probation Department in New Mexico has “been broken for more than 20 years.” He stated that New Mexico is last in the nation in putting money into the P&P system and that there are no rehabilitation services available. He said that judges have commented to him that they do not have any other choice but to send them back to jail if they violate their terms. New Mexico has the highest rate of recidivism. He said that it should not be a surprise that these individuals run from the office when they screw up. They know that they are headed back to jail.

All in all, it was a heated discussion that lacked any sort of resolution. Director Tomlin did not stray from her talking points and avoided the tough questions. She used words that made it seem like the matter was urgent, but could not give a definite answer that would provide the residents with some sort of hope. The state representatives were correct when they said that the Roundhouse has done as much as it can by providing money and support. The rest of the action is up to the Department of Corrections. The Department of Corrections said that they need approval from the Board of Finance which holds its next meeting January. All community members are encouraged to attend the public meeting.

To contact the Department of Corrections: questions.nmcd@state.nm.us

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