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L.A. Now Live: Discuss homeless beer sales on skid row

September 7, 2012 |  8:25 am

The Los Angeles Police Department can no longer seize unattended property of the homeless, but officers are still trying to crack down on illegal beer selling. Times reporter Sam Allen will join L.A. Now at 9 a.m. on Friday to discuss his observations of Skid Row and the efforts underway to stem crime on the streets.

Allen reported that when government checks arrive, enterprising homeless start peddling beer.

At 10 a.m. on a recent weekday downtown, at the corner of 5th and San Pedro streets, a few steps from the drug and alcohol rehab center, the local soup kitchen and the patch of sidewalk where he bunks most nights, Josh Richard was selling beer to other homeless men.

One by one, his customers approached, handing over $1.50 for cans of Colt 45, Steel Reserve or Heineken that he kept hidden in a blue cooler beneath a shopping cart. Government checks had arrived a few days before. Business on skid row was good — as it has been all year.

A federal court order last year blunted LAPD's authority to seize objects from the sidewalks, a ruling that was upheld this week on appeal. At the same time, the number of people sleeping on skid row's streets has increased by 70% since 2010 to about 1,200 total. Crime is up as well.

Police are patrolling skid row, but one beer vendor says: "Here's the thing about the cops — they try to control it, but they can't be two places at once. They can't catch us all."