A new report from the state's transportation department shows that fatalities involving pedestrians remain high this year and could even surpass last year's number.
According to KRQE, a traffic fatality report released by the New Mexico Department of Transportation found that there have been 45 pedestrian deaths statewide since the beginning of the year. In Albuquerque, there have reportedly been 11 deaths involving pedestrians over the same time period. NMDOT says it will be conducting two studies to find out why these accidents continue to occur.
Officials believe current infrastructure is contributing to the problem. In May, Albuquerque initiated the Vision Zero program in an attempt to curb the number of pedestrian deaths happening in the city. The program attempts to redesign existing infrastructure to accommodate human error and avoid fatal accidents. Strategies include extending sidewalks, crosswalks, roads and bike lanes.
Last year, the city installed needle disposal boxes in some Albuquerque parks. Since then, thousands of needles have been collected, making the program appear to be a success.
According to KOAT, reporters conducted a quick survey at three of the parks that have the boxes and found no used needles on the ground. The boxes are part of the city's SHARP—Safe Handling and Routing of Paraphernalia—program. Officials say much of the program's success comes from reports made by citizens via 311 and the 311 app.
When the program started in 2018, the responsibility of responding to needle reports fell on five city departments, including Albuquerque Fire Rescue and the Albuquerque Police Department, who rotated duties each month. As of this month, however, the task will fall solely to Parks & Recreation. Agency director Dave Simon said the change will free emergency workers up to focus on their jobs.
Two boxes have caused issues, though. The box at Bel-Air Park was locked after the sticker labeling it as a needle disposal box was removed by vandals. The box at Coronado Park was removed due to trash problems.
Authorities are asking the community to continue reporting discarded needles. Volunteers looking to help with needle pickups in their area can access portable cleanup kits at the city's Parks & Recreation department.
Gun Buyback a Success
Hundreds of Albuquerque guns were turned in at a buyback last weekend.
The Associated Press reports that 415 guns were turned in during the event, which was organized with the goal of curbing gun violence in the city. The Albuquerque Police Department allowed residents to turn in their guns in exchange for cash without fear of reprisal. Residents who turned in handguns, shotguns and rifles received $75, while those who brought in assault rifles received $100. According to KOB, five of those guns had previously been reported stolen. The guns that were collected will be used as part of an art project. Police say they plan to organize a similar event in the future.