060821 jw security contract.jpg

Allied Universal security guard Jonathan Moulton checks in with Santa Fe police officers stationed on the Plaza during his patrol Tuesday in downtown Santa Fe. As the city plans to increase the contract with Allied, some council members are concerned it is too focused on downtown and not neighborhood parks that have drawn concern.

Santa Fe city councilors have raised concerns about safety issues at local parks as the council prepares to consider an amendment to a multimillion-dollar security contract Wednesday.

During a Public Works and Utilities Committee meeting Monday, Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler said she believes the city is concentrating too much of its security resources at city facilities and the downtown area while parks, especially those in southern Santa Fe, are sorely lacking.

The issue comes as Santa Fe police are investigating the death of body discovered Saturday at Franklin E. Miles Park in the midtown area. Police so far have not released the man’s identity but said they consider the death suspicious.

City spokesman Dave Herndon wrote in an email there is no evidence the man was attacked.

“You might not be privy to this, but we get so many calls from constituents about issues in the parks,” Vigil Coppler told fellow committee members. “There are needles, drugs and death, and they are all on the midtown to south side, and I don’t see enough attention in this contract paid to that.”

The city signed a four-year contract with Pennsylvania-based Allied Universal in 2018 to provide security services across the city, including at the Santa Fe Regional Airport. The contract has been amended since then, adding worker hours and facilities.

The total cost for Allied Universal’s services over the four-year period will be about $4.5 million if the City Council approves a $1.57 million amendment to cover security costs for fiscal year 2022.

Allied Universal provides security at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, La Farge Branch Library, the Main Library downtown, the midtown campus, the Municipal Court, the Santa Fe Regional Airport, the Railyard and other sites.

A mobile unit also patrols city parking lots.

The contract allows for resources to be redeployed where they are needed, Herndon wrote, adding a portion of a $319,000 allocation for the downtown Plaza was redistributed to the Railyard and homeless shelters.

Members of the public have long complained about safety conditions at some local parks.

In January, community members found tents along a baseball diamond used by Little League teams at Franklin E. Miles Park, as well as stolen shopping carts and discarded pieces of clothing in the dugouts.

In March, residents living near Las Acequias Park off Rufina Street were rattled by a shooting that sent one teen boy to the hospital. About 20 to 30 people were at the park before the shooting, according to police.

Two 17-year-old boys initially were charged in the shooting, but those charges were dropped after the victims were unable to identify their attackers.

Herndon wrote in the email that police met with the Las Acequias Neighborhood Association twice following the shooting and installed video surveillance.

“I really would like to see more money directed toward park security. We really, really need it,” Vigil Coppler said. “This is a great deal of money, and I cannot support this the way it is drawn up right now.”

The previous contract with Allied Universal included money for security at six or seven parks, according to Sam Burnett, a property maintenance manager for the Public Works Department. But those services were paid for with federal CARES Act funds, which have since dried up.

City Councilor Chris Rivera, chairman of the Public Works and Utilities Committee, said Tuesday he would welcome more security at south-side parks in particular and believed using temporary funds for security created a “false sense of security.”

“People see security for a limited amount of time, then it is gone,” Rivera said. It’s “probably not a good way to fund what could be done on a full-time basis.”

Acting parks Director Melissa McDonald said the city has a $90,000 contract with local firm Chavez Security to cover 12 parks, mostly south of the midtown area, which the city is looking to expand.

Vigil Coppler argued, however, $90,000 wasn’t enough.

Some members of the council suggested postponing a vote on the security contract until it can be changed to address inequities, but Burnett said it must be approved before July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, or the airport will fall out of compliance with federal security requirements.

Councilor Michael Garcia, who requested the city postpone the vote until the end of the month, said he “tends to agree” with Vigil Coppler on the security allocation, especially as more people return to local parks.

“It’s better to be proactive than reactive,” Garcia said. “I wish we were not under the gun with the airport situation.”

(22) comments

Al Martinez

Why is the rent-a-cop dressed like he's part of a swat team?

Khal Spencer

He is rather smartly dressed. Hence my original question. Does the getup reflect the training?

Lee DiFiore

You have to wonder what that $4.5 million would do to solve the chronic understaffing of police officers at the SFPD.

Frederick Jones

Love the picture of the guy dressed up like a swat team member. All the posturing downtown while the rinky dink security detail cruises around Pete's Place. Rows of people sitting outside the boundaries doing the daily movida. Right across from the old national guard park. Love how the city has its priorities so well organized. The issue that the city is afraid to address is ADDICTION. Rinky dink Fanta Se style!!

Carolyn DM

It's always highly amusing to see security guards dressed up like swat team members.

Michael Grimler

It seems we are treating the symptom and not the cause for the need for park security.

We need to ask ourselves as a community what the cause is and eliminate that. When that happens, safety in the parks won't be as large an issue.

Khal Spencer

True enough. Adding more security without solving the problem is a game of whack-a-mole. That said, seems we need to address the disease as well as the symptoms.

Lupe Molina

You are right of course, Michael. But this is America. Solving underlying, complex social issues isn't how we do things. We want instant gratification. Especially true in an election year. Hence armed security instead of fixing fundamental police issues, which wouldn't be issues if we did a better job of investing in education, housing, and public safety.

Khal Spencer

It is a complex issue requiring a multivariate set of solutions. Homelessness, drug addiction, a lousy educational system, and unaffordable housing require a tool box, not a tool. But those are long term proposals, assuming we adopt any of them. Meanwhile, I don't blame anyone for wanting a quick solution to safety. No one wants to be mugged in a park.

Mike is right. We need to ask what we need to do as a community, and then commit to doing it. But effective, community policing will always be a tool in the tool box. There is no free lunch.

Lupe Molina

Totally agreed!

B. Rosen

While I welcome any increase in police presence in our parks, I think a lot of the crime in our city is related to drugs. There is a woeful shortage of rehab facilities in our state for these addicts. I see so many young people who look strung out on street corners and in our parks too, I wonder if the money could be better invested in trying to solve the underlying issues behind the crime instead of just on policing.

Gerald Joyce

Chavez Security has provided services to SWAN Park for 4 of the 5 years it has been opened. The service consisted of opening and closing the gates and clearing the Park at the nighttime closing. Chavez was both timely and effective in performing those sevices. Any and all other calls for the Park were handled by the SFPD, when available. The contract was allowed to lapse in 2019 and for almost 4 months the gates were not opened most mornings until 8-9AM. I notified Councilor Rivera recently that it appeared Chavez' contract lapsed again as the Parks employees were opening the gate in the morning. Now I know why. SWAN is the premier park on the southwest side but has never seen the proper attention or maintenance since it opened. Khal, Chavez is a first class firm who performs their duties professionally. Never saw a parking lot cleared that fast, even with 40-50 people there. I would welcome a renewal of their security contract if it includes SWAN.

Khal Spencer

Sounds good to me but for real patrol duties, I think we should expand the force. It is a little bizzare to leave our force with so many vacancies and then hire outside security to patrol areas of the city that really are SFPD jurisdition. What you describe is a legitimate security duty.

Lupe Molina

Good points Khal but I wonder if expanding the force is the answer. The problem seems to be that police are overconventrated in certain areas. Every other time I go past Pete's there seems to be a police response to a mental health or drug related problem but no fewer than 3 cruisers respond. Is that necessary? One cruiser and a public health expert might provide the same or better solution. Reminds me of some road crews where one person operates the roller and 6 dudes stand around watching. Its a glaring waste of resources. Especially when you consider each cruiser has $80k of gear that they ask for replacement every 3 years. So, maybe not expansion but just better distribution of existing resources.

Stefanie Beninato

The security at the plaza consists of the private guard showing up in his car, getting out, standing by the car for perhaps 20 minutes and then moving on. No reminders to buskers about no amplification, no reminders that the plaza is a non smoking area etc...Complete waste of taxpayer dollars that will not improve security at southside parks IMHO

Khal Spencer

Are these security officers, who are armed, as well trained as SFPD? What happens if they are not and we have a major use of force incident? Is the city on the hook just as if it were our own folks in blue or are we indemnified by the contract?

Has anyone factored in such contingencies as far as a cost/benefit of hiring and training more of our own police force and thus keeping the money in the community and under more or less our own control rather than relying on "Acme rent-a-cop"?

I was recently on a bike ride from the Railyard down to Eldorado on the Rail Trail and stopped to chat with the private firm security lieutenant who was patrolling just SW of the St. Francis underpass. Nice person, appeared to be doing a good job (I worked my way through college as a student security aide at my college and full time security officer for a year after that.) I told her I was glad to see her there as I sometimes see somewhat nefarious people hanging around the trail (yeah, sure, that's a stereotype. Most are harmless. Sue me). That said, why can't we put more officers on the force for those millions, add some of those city-hired police aides, activate a neighborhood watch, and add more bike patrols on our urban trails and in parks?

Lupe Molina

Is SFPD well trained? Their average response time seems to be far too long and they have to back each other up 3 times over to deal with drunk folks outside of Pete's. Also seems like they straight up don't investigate any felony that's not murder.

Richard Reinders

How many full time police can be hired with the $4 million contract for security.

Dan Frazier

We need better police services. I rarely if ever see police patrolling our parks and arroyos. I have little faith in security contracts which probably means that a security vehicle drives by the park twice a day or something. I would like to see more security cameras at parks and in problem areas of the arroyos so that when something does happen there is a chance we have a clue who did it. Kudos to Vigil Coppler for trying to get more services for the Southside.

Lupe Molina

Let's be clear, the fundamental problem here is the mismanagement of our police force. Just this week, I was at the railyard and saw seven cruisers there, with their respective SFPD personnel standing in a circle chatting. Why weren't they walking a beat? Why weren't they patrolling Southside neighborhoods which seemingly have seen an uptick in crime recently? Police leadership is asleep at the wheel and taxpayers shouldnt have to pay a dime for armed security while cops on our payroll have little chats in the middle of the day at some of the safest locations in the city.

Carolyn DM

All good points, in addition to the fact that they could be doing actual manned speed traps where they are desperately needed instead of parking empty SUVs all over the City which accomplishes nothing, while fooling nobody.

Brent Bolen

Wait, those Police SUV's parked in the middle of the roads are empty? I thought that was just where they parked when they wanted to take a nap.

My bad.

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