Neighbors Pressure Drug Trade 

Neighbors Pressure Drug Trade 
Posted by FoM on January 12, 2000 at 14:46:23 PT
By Andrew Padilla Journal Staff Writer 
Source: ABQjournal
A local elementary school principal has been given an ultimatum by residents living near her rental property: evict your drug-dealing tenants or risk losing your property in court. Officials with La Mesa Community Improvement Association and with the District Attorney's Office say drug dealing at the apartment complex in the 200 block of Dallas NE, near the State Fairgrounds, has gotten out of hand. 
  Police records show that over the past two years 10 people in the eight-unit complex have been arrested and charged with drug trafficking.   Members of the association say they have tried to help complex owner Lillian M. Torrez clean it up by setting up meetings with law enforcement officials and recommending ways to deal with tenants involved in criminal activity, but she has refused their assistance.   Now they are prepared to take Torrez, principal at Eugene Field Elementary School, to court for maintaining a public nuisance.   "There are quite a few people that are willing to do this with (Torrez) because they've already tried to work with her and they're getting fed up," said Pat Herring, head of La Mesa's landlord association.   But Torrez said Tuesday the group hasn't tried to help her. In fact, it has kept her from renting the apartments to good people, she said.   She said about 40 people had expressed interest in renting, but her screening was too tough. Others who were still interested decided not to rent because neighbors told them the apartments were a bad place to live.   "I can't get anybody to live there because they (anonymous neighbors) keep giving that place a bad reputation," Torrez said.   Torrez said only three apartments are rented and she has lost about $40,000 since 1997.   She has been trying to sell the complex, and a purchase agreement has been signed. But problems with the title have kept the transaction from going through.   She said the association hasn't been able to show evidence that illegal activity has been occurring at the complex lately -- aside from at an apartment that the new owner rented after the purchase agreement was signed.   She expects to file a lawsuit against the neighborhood association for harassment.   "I don't know where to go now, other than have my attorney go after them," Torrez said.   According to the city's public nuisance abatement law, if the complex is found to be a nuisance, a judge could either order Torrez to evict the drug dealers, shut down the complex for a year, or even force her to forfeit it to the city.   Valorie Vigil, neighborhood liaison for District Attorney Jeff Romero, said Romero is also considering either a civil or criminal lawsuit against Torrez.   But Vigil said Romero might wait to see what the residents do first.   This is not the first time Torrez has been under fire for having alleged drug dealers living in her apartments.   In early 1997, Torrez, who was known then as Lillian M. Cruz, had been criminally charged with violating the city's abatement law.   At the time, Torrez said she had just purchased the property and did not know there was illegal activity taking place there.   The city later dropped the charges after she evicted several of the alleged drug dealers.   Herring said it didn't take long for drug dealing there to begin again.   "Nothing really happened," Herring said. "(Torrez) would clean it up, but the property would slip back into its problem."   Last month, police arrested three people on the same day for trafficking drugs at the complex.   Police records show that Fabiola Caraveo, 20, Roberto Rincon, 32, and Pedro Urieta, 21, were arrested on Dec. 4. Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2000 Copyright  1997 - 2000 Albuquerque Journal
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