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Sweeping injunction targets "commuter drug dealers" in downtown L.A.

In an aggressive new tack in the city's crackdown on drug-dealing on skid row, L.A. prosecutors on Wednesday announced a criminal injunction targeting "commuter dealers” who come into downtown from other parts of town to sell their goods.

The L.A. City Attorney's Office said this is the first time they have aimed an injunction at drug dealers rather than gangs. The injunction would ban 80 drug dealers from entering skid row, and would allow prosecutors to ban up to 300 additional dealers who police identify in the future.

A protester interrupts a skid row press conference with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other LA officials during announcement of a new injunction. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

The 80 men and women already identified are affiliated with 31 gangs and have come to a “mutual understanding” to forgo rivalries, keep the peace and share business, according to Peter Shutan, the deputy city attorney.

The ban still requires a judge’s OK, but it has already reignited the debate over the role of police on skid row, where distinguishing between addicts and dealers can be difficult.

Critics say that some of the people included in the injunction may be addicts themselves who sell drugs to support their own habits. Skid row is the last stop for many, they say, and the bans could end up separating addicts who sometimes carry or sell drugs from the rehabilitation services they need.

Of particular concern to the activists is the part of the injunction that would allow police and the city attorney to ban up to 300 more people — now identified in the injunction simply as “John Does” — so long as they can prove to a judge that the people targeted are dealing drugs.

“If you see a guy committing a crime, you arrest him, you don’t put him on a list and say, ‘I think this guy is going to commit a crime,’ ” said gang expert Alex Alonso. “Now if a ‘John Doe' is hanging out with one of the 80 people on that list, he better watch out. He could get served, he probably will get served.”

Alonso said the injunction would give the police too much discretion in skid row, an area that has been home to the city’s most concentrated police presence since 2006, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and then-LAPD Chief William 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.

In 2009, the LAPD made 3,638 drug arrests on skid row, according to the LAPD. Roughly 38% of those were for sales activity, and 45% were for possession.

The city attorney’s office says the injunction is designed to protect people like Iris Mingo, a skid row resident and former crack user who says she has been sober for 18 months. Mingo says she faces temptations every time she walks out of her door because dealing is so rampant in the neighborhood.

“Now I’m free, but don’t think it don’t come up on me,” said Mingo, 56. “It can be very trying.”

Several social service providers welcomed news of the injunctions. Although banning the 80 alleged dealers will likely create “a vacuum” that new dealers will fill, getting current dealers off the street will give former drug addicts a better chance at recovery, said Andy Bales of the Union Rescue Mission.

“This is the best news we’ve had in a while,” Bales said.

Although skid row arrest rates have soared and most crime rates have plunged — LAPD statistics show that property crime dropped 44% and violent crime dropped 40% between 2005 and 2009 — the drug problem persists.

At the Union Rescue Mission early Tuesday morning, one man died of a suspected heroin overdose in the shelter’s overflow dormitories. The same morning, another man died of a suspected overdose at the Midnight Mission across the street.

Much violence on skid row is drug-related.

Last year the area was rocked by a double homicide that police say was linked to the drug trade inside the Lamp Lodge, a respected facility that provides shelter and counseling to the homeless.
Commander Blake Chow of the LAPD’s Central Division called drugs “probably the biggest threat to the community right now.”

The injunction, Chow said, would help police “protect the homeless from the predators coming from other parts of the city.” Of the dealers, he said, “we can arrest them and arrest them and arrest them, but what we need to do is keep them away.”

Gary Blasi, a UCLA professor who studies homelessness, said injunctions might allow police to stop anyone on the street without probable cause so long as they look like one of the 80 people on the the list.

The ban if approved, would not take effect for months. The people listed in the junction will have a chance to challenge it at a preliminary hearing that will be held in the next few weeks or months, said Bruce Riordan, the city attorney's director of anti-gang operations.

Another two to three months after that there will be another hearing in which a judge can choose to make it permanent.

Violating the injunction would be a misdemeanor offense.

-- Kate Linthicum

Photo: A protester interrupts a skid row press conference with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other LA officials during announcement of a new injunction. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (21)

Wow, how come we didnt think of this before, just put out an injunction....And how hard can it be for a judge to issue one against murder in LA County?? Man we got something here..Injunctions against everything we dont like, Solves all our problems. If they know the dealers JAIL them. Dont add their name to a stupid list, Jail them.

Nice Start. Now change the name and stop referring to it as, 'Skid Row'.

bye bye what's left of due process

hang'em high

Its about time!
Keep up the good work LAPD!

gotta love the comments from the "advocates" and "critics" - I pretty much scan ahead in the article to see what nonsense these folks are so passionate about

How many liquor stores do they have down there? Why not also file an injunction against the liquor retailers? If the cops grill them real hard, maybe they will rat out the wholesale distributors of alcohol and the DA can go right to the top!

Clearly a Constitutional violation that a good lawyer could shoot down in minutes. That's a police State law like they have in Russia. These moves are simply to further gentrify the area. These problems aren't new, and were never addressed until White people decided to populate the area they'd abandonded long ago. Somebody needs to shoot this thing down before it goes too far and it stars to cost the city money in legal settlements.

So, the thought here is that by blacklisting a group of drug dealers from roaming around downtown, with the threat of a misdemeanor charge, drug users are just going to stop doing drugs? Really??
This is clearly just an excuse for police to stop and search people without probable cause. And beyond that, even if you arrest all those dealers and hang them, the obvious outcome is a violent battle between all the new, non blacklisted dealers who will be lined up to sell their drugs. Impose all the idiotic public safety stunts you want... people will still want drugs, and someone is still going to sell them.
This is a pathetic idea that will undoubtedly lead to more violence and disregard for the law.
But yet it goes on.......

Give me a break. Crackheads need some good old fashion fear put into them. I say bring in the Mexican police and watch the streets get cleaned up in no time.

The gang injunctions work. It's is the lasting legacy of Mayor Hahn.
We finally have a police department that is fit to administer it.
My question is: If that person is entering an area to commit a felony?
Why are the only being charged with a felony?

Isn't the pedaling of heroin, meth and crack cocaine all serious felonies? These 80 scumbags should be in prison already. What they are getting is less than a tap on the wrist and a wimpy request to "go kill people in another neighborhood". Running an immigration check on these criminals would solve 80% of the drug pushing problems in Skid row and everywhere else. It's time the police and D.A.'s office came down on these low-lives like a ton of bricks.

Critics say that some of the people included in the injunction may be addicts themselves who sell drugs to support their own habits. Skid row is the last stop for many, they say, and the bans could end up separating addicts who sometimes carry or sell drugs from the rehabilitation services they need.

ARE YOU KIDDING???? WHAT KIND OF BLEEDING HEART LIBERAL B/S IS THIS......

This is a great idea. The only objections seem to be that some habitual drug addicts will be wrongly labeled as dealers and banned from hanging out in "Center City East." I don't see the problem with that. If we know someone an addict, shouldn't we be getting them out of Skid Row, not encouraging them to continue spending all their money on drugs?

Meanwhile, the majority of those targeted by the injunction will be gang members who are constantly dealing drugs in this area. An injunction against them will go a long way to changing the neighborhood for the better.

Perhaps my children will someday be able to visit the south-east half of Downtown LA without worrying about being harrassed by gang members, drug dealers and the mentally ill. "Skid Row" has been abandoned by the city for far too long; it's time for the city to take back that half of Downtown.

finally Trutanich is doing something actually useful and for public safety, going after real drug dealers who are a public nuisance and real criminals and gang members, including apparently illegals. Maybe he finally heard people say enough of threatening every official who didn't support him or is a Democrat (he ran as "decline to state" but is a lifelong Republican living and working in Long Beach, was and is sponsored by the Republican Party and now openly REpublican DA Steve Cooley and the NRA and had spent his life representing rich or powerfully connected criminals and corporate polluters who paid fines and did token community service as a cost of doing business.)

Better than what he's done the last entire year, threatening to jail and fine everyone from city officials who just didn't see eye to eye with him, corporate executives who didn't cave to his arbitrary demands like AEG/ Staples, the recent jailing and Million-$ bail for a prominent businessman who didn't take down a supergraphic fast enough - all which earned him the name "bully" and "Thuggish."

He is one of the few officials who won't take a pay cut himself, because "I earned more in the public sector." Earning himself an editorial board slam in the Daily News - which also keeps pointing out how he didn't keep his word on the Controller issue.

WORSE was his making promises to the City Controller Laura Chick that he'd support her right to audit all officials and her successor Gruel as well, then to renege and tie them up in court and call Chick and her lawyer nasty names and parasites because he wanted to "win" and keep prosecuting instead of settling with the lawyer he'd sworn to uphold to get Chick's support, for a mere $80K.
So now Greuel can't audit other officials INCLUDING himself - to see if he's telling the truth about "saving" money for the city.

Jailing these drug dealers is also better than jailing and threatening medical dispensary owners who have operated under what they believed to be L A municipal ordinance, paid business taxes and so on - but Trutanich and his boss Cooley want to "look tough" to their Republican base on this issue, to shore themselves up for Cooley's run for Attorney General, and if he wins, Trutanich hopes to keep his plan all along: to take over the DA's job where he can REALLY throw his weight around willy-nilly.

Worst of all, Trutanich campaigned with the aggressive HELP of the PRO-medical pot sales advocates, headed by Don Duncan and his GLACA/aboutmedicalmarijuana.com blog and deep pocket supporters - who he is NOW singling out for "investigation" according to the L A Weekly because Duncan and his group have the nerve to expect Trutanich to keep his word.

Terrifying to think of those two peas in a pod going even higher together, with their lust for power and lack of civic responsibility in the face of a budget crisis, not keeping their word and in fact, throwing those they duped under the bus. Just because he's doing ONE THING right here - a basic responsibility of any City Attorney- does not change this tiger's stripes.

DIDNT THINK YOU BLEEDIN HEARTS WOULD PUT IT IN....

please fill the holes before we fill them in

I live in this neighborhood and am not a drug addict or homeless person. There are plenty of small stores in this neighborhood, most of which do not sell alcohol. The injunction will likely target those who are not addicts nor dealers and instead those who are down and out. From living in this area the biggest problems I have are with outsiders those who come to the district to gawk at the homeless, shop in the stores or seek illegal substances. It is obvious, in reading the posts below, how ignorant and judgmental people are simply beacuse it is called Skid Row. What about the drug problems in the posh/trendy clubs on the westside or hollywood, the addicts we support on network television of the movies? How much pity we have for monied or famous losers because they used to be in television sitcoms, movies or in the popular press. People feel sorry for the Johnson heir who blew her pampered life away and Corey Haim who was able to score a second 15-minutes of fame as a drug addict on television. But if you're a nobody addict then you deserve your civil rights to be stripped away because you are an easy target. If they really want to make a difference then they would go after the major players in the illegal drug industry, of course, that takes a lot of risk, time and money.

stop it! just stop it! Sick to death of people coming up with an argument not to support this kind of aggressive overhaul of a very old, very tired, and very neglectful system. These are not drug dealers who are homeless. These are opportunists who prey on the homeless and addicted. If they are truly low-level addicts themselves, and they are there to seek treatment, they would clearly not be dealing and seeking treatment simultaneously. And if they are there to seek treatment and have treatment drugs on them--THEY WILL NOT BE ARRESTED. So just stop it! These radicals who support status quo are the real criminals.

if you are walking around skid row......

Three questions

Is Skid Row an unicorporated city of Los Angeles?
Does Skid Row contract law enforcement to the LASD?
Why is the Lynwood Viking, Church of Scientology member Sherriff Baca there?

O,
The LAPD Chief is in New York
Trying to figure out more was to make New LA York.

Gentification
Start in Skid Row and go South.........


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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