The Independent
9/22/2018

By Bill Donovan
Correspondent

Residents of the Mossman community in Gallup have had serious concerns for decades about the safety of their families and personal property because of their proximity to the Na’nizhoozhi Center Inc.

Detox. These concerns were made evident almost four years ago when residents held a meeting with city officials to protest plans to make improvements to a bridge behind John F. Kennedy Middle School that would create a new road linking Boardman Avenue near the detox center to the center of the Mossman community.

Daily influx of walkers

Residents had already been complaining of problems caused every morning when the detox center let out the men and women picked up the night before by police for being intoxicated. Since Mossman is located directly east of the detox center dozens of those who were freshly released headed in that direction on their way to the downtown area of Gallup.

Beleaguered residents told stories during the meeting of being accosted whenever they ventured out of their homes in the morning by panhandlers pleading for change to buy food and liquor. Homeowners told of having things stolen off their lawns and having to cope with break-ins when they left their homes during the day.

And while city officials at the meeting noted their concerns, the problems the families face today have not changed, although the city agreed not to go through with the bridge project, said Mary Ann Armijo, a former City Council member and a longtime resident of the Mossman community.

Which makes what the Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services did for the community earlier this month so appreciated.

RMCHCS pitches in

Members of a program sponsored by the behavioral health department for the agency partnered with the Gallup Police Department to clean out the bushes and vegetation in the alleys and entrances to the Mossman area to make it moredifficult for outsiders who wander into the area to panhandle or break into residences to hide from police.

David Conejo, CEO of the agency, said he lives adjacent to the Mossman area and recently attended a meeting of the residents where he learned of their problems with walkers coming into their community.

He pointed out that RMCHCS’s alcohol rehabilitation program has a component that provides people who go through rehab jobs after they finish the program helping cleanup the city. The program provides the recovering alcoholics with a salary as well as improve their self-esteem.

People stay in the program, which is funded by Behavioral Health Investment Zone funds, for up to four months which gives them a chance to transition into the community as well as giving them time to find a long-term job.

Break-ins

When the agency began researching the problems in the Mossman area, they found out that between 1,000 to 1,500 people live in the community which has seen a number of break-ins in recent months. Some of their homes have been broken into through the front or rear doors when people are away at work and the homes are vacant.

Local police officials said that some arrests have been made and the common thread in all of the break-ins has been that the perpetrators have been looking for cash, electronics and jewelry.

Appreciation

Ten of the 22 members of the program spent a couple of days in the community cleaning up the alleys and removing trees and brush that could be used as cover in case someone drove by.

When they got done, residents took to Twitter to tell the agency how much they appreciated the work that was done.

“They’re doing a great job,” said Lynette Vargas. “Thanks so much:” “It is no nice of you to do this,” said Yolanda Baca.

City Manager Maryann Ustick added her appreciation for the cleanup, saying that she realized that the agency did this voluntarily and hoped that other communities would seek out the services as well to improve their areas.

Conejo said he would welcome that as well because that was one of the reasons why the program was set up almost a year ago.

He said that just a couple of days ago, a woman in the Mossman area said she would make a donation to the program if staff there would clean up her yard and the program agreed to do that.

A little safer

The cleanup has made the Mossman area a little safer but residents are still looking for other ways to make sure that people who wander into the area don’t break the law.

At a meeting back in 2014, residents asked for more police patrols, especially in the morning hours when the detox center releases overnighters.

Ustick said the city would like to provide regular patrols in the area but are unable to right now because of all of the vacancies that have occurred in the department in the past few months.

The department had 13 vacancies at one time but efforts are underway to fill those positions.

In the meantime, the police department has a unit that handles special assignments each day by monitoring “hot spots” and the officers in that unit have been made aware of the requests from the Mossman community, she said.

A high-tech approach

Armijo said community residents are also looking at a high-tech approach to making their community safer.

“There are only three entrances to the Mossman community,” Armijo said. “If we can place high-definition cameras at each of these entrances we will be able to see who came and left whenever there was a break-in.”

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