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City mislabels public lots used by unhoused people as private property

Christine Barber of AS U R walks in the vacant lot at Central and Alcazar. She says the "No Trespassing" sign high on the pole
Megan Myscofski
Christine Barber of AS U R walks in the vacant lot at Central and Alcazar. She says the "No Trespassing" sign high on the pole was only placed there a couple days prior and isn't easy to spot.

City workers in Albuquerque have posted signs that each read “No Trespassing, Private Property” on two lots in the International District, but both sites are public property. That is creating confusion for people who are unhoused and currently have the right to stay on public property.

The lots are both on Central Avenue – one at Alcazar Street and the other at Charleston Street. According to the Bernalillo County Assessor's website, both are public property.

A court injunction that went into effect on November 1st says people experiencing homelessness can stay on public property, as long as they aren’t on school property or blocking a sidewalk, alleyway or other walkway.

“It's just clearly against both the terms and the spirit of the court injunction,” said Adam Flores, who is an attorney with Ives and Flores, a law firm in Albuquerque that specializes in civil rights violations. He said the signs are misleading – the lots are public property and it isn’t trespassing to enter them. He also said the signs are encouraging sweeps in areas where according to the court order, they are currently prohibited.

“The point of the injunction is to make sure that until the city identifies specific places, acceptable places where people can be, that people have a right to occupy public property with their belongings,” Flores said. “It doesn't mean that people can commit other crimes or engage in other criminal conduct, but they do have a right to be somewhere.”

The City of Albuquerque has asked the state Supreme Court to rule on the legal arguments in the injunction. The city did not make a representative available to speak for this story. But a spokesperson told the Albuquerque Journal that the private property signs were posted on public property because there is only one kind of sign available to the city to prevent trespassing.

The New Mexico Supreme Court will hear the case on the court order Wednesday, December 13th.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Megan Myscofski is a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.
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