Four On Your Side Investigates Bed Bug Infestation in SE Albuquerque

KOB-TV (Albuquerque, NM)
Monday, October 31, 2011

On Halloween, residents at a local apartment complex weren't battling zombies or vampires. Instead, they were trying to protect their children from being bitten by a different kind of horror.

Bed bugs.

One man who lives in the Plaza Dorado Apartment Complex near Central Avenue, east of Juan Tabo Boulevard SE,  and who didn't want to be identified out of fear of possible retaliation or even eviction, told 4 On Your Side Reporter Gadi Schwartz that the bugs are eating him up.

"It's a nightmare. Just the thought of having bugs crawling all over you while you're sleeping," the man with clearly visible bites on his arms and legs said.

He is not alone.

KOB's Four On Your Side investigative news team found the creepy pests, both dead and alive, piling up in hallways and in several residents' homes.

A property manager at the complex confirmed six units had been infested with the insects.

Erica Blankenship said she moved out of the community when the bugs invaded earlier this year.

"My kids were afraid to sleep," Blankenship said.

The young mother said she tried to get management to spray her rooms numerous times, but said they never did.

Blankenship said the infestation was so bad she left her furniture behind when she moved out.

Living with her family now, Blankenship said replacing her bed, a couch and two recliners and other household items may cost her thousands of dollars.

Another tenant, who also did not want to be named, said he has tried everything to keep both bed bugs and cock roaches away from his two young sons. He has taped cracks in the wall along his unit's door and has sprayed every day.

It has been a losing effort for him. So far he has had to throw out mattresses and a couch.

At one point during our interview, he spotted a small cockroach scurrying down his shirt.

"If I could move out I would," he said.

Other buildings on the property that KOB viewed had fiberglass insulation clearly exposed, nails sticking out of stairways and in one area outside, what appeared to be a live electrical wire exposed near the door to an apartment building.

KOB met with the onsite property manager to discuss the residents' frustrations living at the complex.

Kathryn Bowen said her staff addresses residents' concerns within seven days. She assured Schwartz that she recently signed a contract with an exterminator to fight the bed bug problem.

"We do our absolute best to get out there" Bowen said, adding that residents have a responsibility to help keep bed bugs out of their homes, showing us an Amended Lease agreement she sent to residents telling them how to battle the bugs.

"We will come out and do what we can, but you have got to do what you can do to get rid of them," Bowen said.

As for the exposed wiring, Bowen said no one ever reported the problem to her and did not know whether the line was charged or not.

"I'm going to have to get a hold of maintenance on this one," Bowen said.

Meanwhile, residents are asking property managers to spray entire buildings for bed bugs as opposed to individual apartments to make sure the bed bugs stop spreading into other units.