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New Mexico Community Custody House Arrestees Used to Clean Private Land

An investigation by Albuquerque television station KRQE revealed that Bernalillo County house arrestees who were assigned to wash cars, pick up trash and pull weeds as part of their community service spent close to the same amount of time on private property as on public rights of way during four days in July 2014. The Community Custody Frograro's "clean team” is supposed to only be used on public property.

KRQE requested the GPS logs of "clean team" members. The GPS monitors log the members' location whenever they were in the same place for more than 30 seconds. The logs showed the members spending almost half of their time on private property.

Ernie Metzger supervises the Community Custody Program. He’s a friend of County Commissioner Art De La Cruz. The GPS logs showed "clean team" members on property belonging to De La Cruz and his neighbors. They also showed the team spending 70% of its time in De La Cruz's district, one of five.

De La Cruz claims no "clean team" member ever worked on his property. He said he asked Metzger to use the "clean team" to work on public easements in his neighborhood and his friends' neighborhoods because they had been selected for a tour of Albuquerque gardens. The GPS logs show "clean team" members on his property directly in front of his residence and on adjacent property he owns.

County officials hired Robert Caswell Investigators, Inc. to look into the matter. Caswell's report found that "clean team" members had been on residential properties and the team had inadequate supervision. The report contained no determination of whether there had been any wrongdoing and no recommendations for disciplinary action or policy changes.

Casewell interviewed some "clean team" members, but did not interview any of the members GPS logs showed to have been on De La Cruz's or other private property. The 28-page report concluded that there was a "lack of communication from the top command staff to the lower level personnel, as well as the operations personnel being included with the security personnel." Looks like Casewell—which charged the county $68 per hour to prepare the report—was pretty good at cleaning up too.


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