Updated: Apr 13, 2012 7:06 PM
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — The city of Albuquerque will shell out almost $2 million for moving too fast to boot purported troublemakers from their homes.
The city settled a lawsuit Thursday after a judge ruled the Safe City Strike Force was trampling on people's rights.
For years the strike force would seek out problem homes, red tag them as uninhabitable and kick out the people living there.
Mayor Martin Chavez introduced the new name and program back in 2003.
The Safe City Strike Force allowed code enforcement officers to red tag buildings and sometimes evict problem people from their homes.
Strike force officers first started evicting people who were cooking methamphetamine in homes.
Then they booted people out of their homes who had illicit drugs, according to attorney Joseph Kennedy, the lawyer who sued the city in a class-action lawsuit in 2009.
He represented landlords and tenants who have been targeted by the the strike force.
"It was good idea gone bad," Kennedy said.
In 2010 a judge ruled that having drugs in a house may be grounds for an arrest but not for eviction.
"It's not 'give us civil rights or give us safe neighborhoods,'" Kennedy said. "We can have both,"
On Thursday the city settled the lawsuit for $1.7 million.
Mayor Richard J. Berry's office blamed the Chavez administration for starting this mess and said if his administration had gone to trial they would have been rolling the dice.
"It's not in the best interest of the taxpayers because we could have gotten dinged for $5-$6-$7 million," city Chief Executive Officer Rob Perry said.
The lawsuit changes the way the city does business.
They no longer can kick people out of their homes just for drugs or drug paraphernalia.
The city can only evict someone if there is an immediate danger such as faulty wiring, extreme filth or in cases of hoarding.
One hundred fifty people were part of the class action lawsuit and will split the money minus legal fees.
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