Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cleaning up Skid Row

In the ongoing battle to reclaim cities from the ravages of blight restricting their ability to develop and grow, police and public leadership, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, have brought an excellent weapon to bear; one which would surely have application in one of Sacramento's versions of skid row, the Richards Blvd area reaching into the Lower Reach of the Parkway.

An excerpt.

“Los Angeles prosecutors on Wednesday announced that they would seek a criminal injunction targeting potentially hundreds of so-called commuter drug dealers who travel to skid row from other parts of the city to sell their goods -- an aggressive new tactic in the city's crackdown on the West Coast's largest drug bazaar.

“The proposed injunction, if approved by a judge, would ban the 80 named dealers from skid row and would allow authorities to expand the list by as many as 300 additional names over time. The idea has sparked protests from some homeless advocates and civil liberties activists who say it would give too much power to police and could prevent some people from receiving drug treatment or other services located in skid row. The way to tackle the area's drug problem, they say, is to fund more programs for drug rehabilitation.

“The plan was announced by Los Angeles' top law enforcement officials -- Police Chief Charlie Beck, Sheriff Lee Baca, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich and Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley -- during a raucous news conference Wednesday in the heart of skid row. Shouting protesters, some of them homeless, surrounded the speakers, prompting LAPD officers to push into the crowd.

"The single biggest criminal threat facing this area is the open and notorious drug dealing," said Trutanich, who could barely be heard over the protesters' jeers. When one demonstrator yelled "You lie!" at Trutanich, the prosecutor responded by suggesting the man was "working for these street gangs."

“The skid row measure is modeled after gang injunctions that have been imposed in other parts of the county. The city attorney's office said this is the first time such a measure has been proposed to specifically target drug dealers.

“The injunction is needed because the more than 30 gangs who control the skid row drug trade have come to a "mutual understanding" to forgo rivalries, keep the peace and share business, according to Peter Shutan, a deputy city attorney.

“The action is the latest step in the city's attempt to crack down on crime on skid row. The area has been home to the city's most concentrated police presence since 2006, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and then-Police Chief William J. Bratton deployed 50 extra officers there as part of the controversial Safer City initiative. Dozens of undercover narcotics officers were deployed to the same area.

“Crime has dropped sharply in recent years -- property crime dropped 44% and violent crime dropped 40% between 2005 and 2009. The decline has coincided with a downtown revitalization effort that has brought luxury lofts and trendy shops to the urban core.”