City Attorney Proposes Injuction Initiative on Skid Row

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – Last Wednesday, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich held a press conference in Gladys Park downtown, discussing an initiative that, if passed, could drastically decrease the Skid Row drug trade. The Central City Recovery Zone initiative identified 80 suspected drug dealers who would be banned from the Skid Row area, which is known as a hub for drug sales and use.

The 80 suspects all have multiple drug-related convictions, and are believed to be selling mostly crack cocaine, but also marijuana, heroin, and meth, on Skid Row, with fifty-three believed to have gang affiliations.  All are considered to be “commuters”; they do not live on Skid Row, but merely come to the area to sell to the people on the streets of Skid Row, many of which are struggling with addiction and have come to Skid Row for recovery services. 

This problem is not new to Skid Row; for years local residents have been victim to the gangs and dealers who drive in at night to sell, often right outside the missions and clinics. Although typically gangs become territorial about selling areas, downtown has remained mostly nonviolent over the years due to the fact that sellers know there are enough profits to go around.  Gang violence, which would bring police attention and threaten their most reliable source of income, has been kept to a minimum. 

The injunction would establish the “Central City Recovery Zone”, bordered by Broadway, Central Ave, Third Street, and Ninth Street. It will require approval from a judge before implementation, but the goal is to protect an area that is home to many people trying to recover from addiction and are seeking recovery services. 

Although the 80 people on the ‘banned list’ would be arrested for entering this Zone, they do have an opportunity to be removed from this list.  Not only will they be able to contest their inclusion, but they can also be exempted by proving that they actually live in the area or are there for recovery services themselves.

Those allowed to stay in the Recovery Zone will still have rules to abide by, including a ban on firearms, ammunition and narcotics possession, acting as a connecting point for buyers and sellers, or even alerting other sellers of law enforcement.

A hearing is expected during the next several weeks, at which point the LAPD will have 45 days to notify the 80 suspected dealers.  For additional information including pictures from the event, be sure to read Rev. Andy Bales blog post “We Asked For This” dated 4-7-2010.  Union Rescue Mission will continue to share information on this important issue as it becomes available

We Asked For This

Today, Carmen Trutanich, County Attorney Steve Cooley, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Sheriff Lee Baca and others issued a public notice at a press conference of a first-of-its-kind civil law enforcement action designed to curb rampant drug activity in Downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row by gang members and career criminals.  An injunction was taken out against 80 individuals, drug dealers, gang members and 1 entire gang, the Grape Street Crips, who come from the outside of Skid Row to sell drugs and commit crime on the streets of Skid Row.

Below is the speech that I tried to share as I was invited to speak on behalf of area Mission’s and Recovery programs. Our speeches were rudely interrupted by a group called LACAN. I’d like to take time to share my speech and our perspective in this blog.  Thanks for taking time to understand our point of view:

We asked for this. People selling drugs and behaving violently were waiting outside of Union Rescue Mission’s and other agencies’ doors, coming into our courtyards and restrooms, and preying on the vulnerabilities of our guests.

Over the course of a week, a woman was shot in the head and murdered steps from our back door, 2 men chased another man down who owed them money and violently beat him outside our back door on San Julian St., and our precious guest women cried and told me that gang members threatened and robbed the little man who pushes an ice cream cart through the neighborhood, “They shouldn’t have done him like that!” they said.  We felt frustrated and helpless in protecting our very vulnerable and precious guests.

We asked for help, and met with individuals representing our City Attorney, County Attorney, LAPD, Sheriff and others, and they have now delivered that help today.  Thank you!

As a colleague of ours shared yesterday, “This is the best news I have heard on Skid Row in 20 years!”  Larry Adamson, the CEO of Midnight Mission, said “With the progress we have made in recent years, men are staying in their recovery programs 66% longer with much greater success!”  This step will help in improving the success of our recovery programs.

We at Union Rescue Mission have had an average of 60 families with well over 100 vulnerable children in our Mission this year. These children have seen too much in their short young lives and experienced too much fear. Thank you, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, District Attorney, Steve Cooley, and all, for putting an end to this fear.

One of the very thoughtful parts of this initiative is the “exemption clause” through which those listed can leave the life of preying on others, and enter into a recovery program like the one we have at Union Rescue Mission, or as I like to call them, a life transformation program, and have their name removed – exempted – from the list.  Thank you for including this grace and hope filled opportunity!

We have made significant progress in our community — stopping hospital drop-offs, stopping mental hospital drop-offs, making sure women and children are not on the streets and reducing crime.  This injunction is yet another tremendous step in making Skid Row a true Recovery Zone!  It’s an important step in moving toward the day when not one precious human being is left to live in terror and die on the streets of Skid Row.  And, indeed, this is a step closer towards truly living up to our great city’s name, the City of Angels.  Thank you!