Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Lobo The Independent Voice of UNM since 1895
Latest Issue
Read our print edition on Issuu
Copy of Copy of letter to the editor.jpg

Letter: APD commits immoral sweeps of unhoused encampments

Dear Editor, 

I am writing to express my outrage regarding the Albuquerque Police Department’s recent sweeps of homeless encampments in Albuquerque. They have been brutal, ignoring the basic right of unhoused residents’ humanity. They are legitimate residents of this city and they deserve to be treated as such.

Our city’s “Policy for Responding to Encampments on Public Property” states that “(City officials shall) recognize that there are no ‘homeless people’, but rather people who have lost their homes and deserve to be treated with dignity.”  goes on to further say that the aim of city employees in relation to unhoused citizens is “to provide person-centered, trauma-informed care that respects the dignity and ensures the safety of all individuals and families seeking assistance.” This verbiage is clearly hollow in the face of the unremitting destruction that has been raining down on the unhoused members of our community in the form of daily sweeps.

During these sweeps, people lose all of their possessions, including tents and bedclothes. I recently heard of an incident where a homeless individual left his tent to get some food, only to return and find it had been thrown away by the city. He had been gone for less than a minute and 30 seconds. Everything this person owned in the world was in that tent, and he was left with nothing but the clothes on his back.

Incidents like this place people at serious risk of losing fingers, toes, and even their lives and these are not just faceless individuals – they are our friends, companions, spouses, brothers, sisters and loved ones.

During this month’s snowstorm, shelters were full, and because peoples’ tents, bedclothes and possessions had been carted to the landfill, people froze. Under these conditions, something as simple as a small abscess from frostbite can turn into a life-threatening infection without access to proper care. This is outrageous.

The substantial moral issue aside here, these sweeps are also frankly illegal at best and legally dubious at worst. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. It requires that search warrants be supported by probable cause and thoroughly describe the place to be searched and the things to be seized. 

In addition to the Constitutional right, a September injunction states that The City of Albuquerque specifically cannot enforce laws that remove homeless individuals from public property or confiscate their belongings without a warrant, without providing proper notice and without a chance for involuntarily unhoused individuals to challenge the seizure of their belongings. The City is also required to follow specific procedures before destroying any property belonging to homeless individuals and to provide a chance for them to reclaim their belongings.

None of these legal rights are being respected. That should both shame and terrify us.

In addition, this situation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. The financial resources involved in the deployment of numerous police vehicles, law enforcement officers, sanitation trucks, and workers (typically exceeding ten individuals present at each sweep). Additionally, there is a recurrent financial burden on agencies, largely funded by the City, for repeatedly replacing identification documents and other necessary paperwork. This financial burden is carried by you, Dear Reader.

Research shows that these precious tax dollars can be much more profitably spent by providing services: housing, monetary assistance to vulnerable populations, job training and job opportunities, increased wages etc. However we chose to spend our tax dollars, we can definitely do better morally as a community. Gandhi said that, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” We are currently failing this test.  We can turn this around though starting by pressuring city officials for an immediate stop to this “cleansing” of our streets.


Enjoy what you're reading?
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox

Courtney J Angermeier

Angermeier is an adjunct faculty member at the University of New Mexico and a teacher in Albuquerque Public Schools.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Lobo