Ello & the Law of the Mall 

This is the fourth of five AbolishAPD profiles of people constantly harassed by the Albuquerque Police Department. Our profiles are based on police records. They are stories of policing written by cops. This is how cops see their work, and we call it what it is: violence work that maintains the class & racial order of capitalism. We have fictionalized some aspects of the story to protect the victims.

Ello is not allowed at the Mall.

But like a lot of people, he can’t help it. Going to the Mall scratches an itch. Maybe it’s the narcotic lighting, the artificial plants, the false calm of money being spent. Or maybe it’s the smell of pretzels.

In Summer 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department issued a Criminal Trespass Notification Order which forbade Ello from setting foot on mall property. He had stolen a jacket and some pants, and though these items were recovered, the cops punished him for crimes against property. Was he going to sell these items for drugs? Probably not. He was probably going to wear them. Why? Because we live in a society where you get arrested if you don’t have pants. Ello got arrested anyway.

Now, when mall security spots Ello at the Mall, he gets stopped, harassed, cited, or arrested.

In early December 2019, he was spotted outside of a Boot Barn. Mall security called the cops on him.

A couple weeks later, mall security saw Ello standing outside the Barnes & Noble. Maybe he was window shopping. Maybe he was dreaming. It doesn’t matter. The cops were called and Ello was cited with Criminal Trespass.

In early February 2020, Ello was again observed at the Mall. What was he doing? Sitting on the patio. Mall security called the police.

Two weeks later, he was spotted in the Mall’s Victoria Secret corridor. Maybe he was shopping for a lover. Maybe he was imagining what he might buy his love if he had enough money. Or maybe he enjoyed being inside where it wasn’t so cold. Mall security called the cops.

In March, Ello served two days in jail to offset “applicable court costs & fees” imposed because he was caught sitting on a patio.

In July 2020, mall security saw Ello again on mall property. What was he doing? It doesn’t matter. He could have been handing out religious pamphlets or Lisa Frank stickers. His crime was that he existed in a space where he did not belong.

Who decided he didn’t belong?

The US legal system, supported by the cops and mall security who—as violence workers—ensure that Ello and folks like Ello don’t deviate from the script. The scales of justice–as they always do–tip toward private property.

This is the Law of the Mall.

Sure, the Mall is private, but what commercial space isn’t? If you want to window shop, smell the stale indoor air, or get your morning power walk on, you go to the Mall.

Not only was he again cited with Criminal Trespass in July, but the cop on duty advised Ello that “every time [Ello returned] he would be charged with trespass.” Why? Because once he allegedly tried to steal some pants.

For this reason, the Mall was closed to Ello forever.

Imagine if, after your first speeding ticket, you were forbidden from ever again driving on city roads. Or if, after one late return, you were no longer able to step foot in your local library.

This is what our legal system does. It produces the conditions that create poverty, then ignores the realities of impoverished & marginalized peoples. It holds poor folks to impossible standards, then punishes them mercilessly for failing to meet these standards.

It doesn’t hurt that the Albuquerque Police Department—a so-called public service funded by tax dollars—is constantly being aided by private security snitches and surveillance systems that alert APD every time someone pockets a jar of baby food or stands in front of a Boot Barn. Ca-ching! More useless arrests. More folks trapped in the spider web of the legal system. More tax dollars wasted on keeping folks who need support down.

In October, Ello twice served two days in jail because he missed court dates related to Criminal Trespass citations he got at the Mall.

A month later, Ello was arrested at Walmart for allegedly taking seven bucks worth of merchandise. While detained, a cop ran Ello’s record. His record revealed a felony warrant stemming from an incident in late September where Ello had been stopped by APD for not having the right kind of headlight on his bicycle. They had used this specious accusation as grounds to run his record where they turned up several misdemeanor warrants. Warrants for what? Take a guess.

Given that cops claim to have found heroin in Ello’s possession during the September arrest, Ello was sentenced in December to a two-year suspended sentence with the conditions of his parole being that Ello enter a treatment program and never again use drugs.

But it will never allow him to sit on a patio at the Mall because in Albuquerque, once you’ve committed a crime against property, you’re a criminal forever.