This from The LA Times:
Downtown L.A. Drug Sales So Open, Even the Cops Might See Them
August 19, 2006
I wanted to do my part, so late Friday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, I went shopping for drugs.
To hear the brass of the LAPD squawk lately, they can't crack down on skid row crime because a federal court decision protecting tent encampments has kept drug transactions hidden and users out of sight.
Yeah, there are lots of tents on skid row. Hundreds of them, and there's no question that the folks inside are not all singing campfire songs. There's prostitution and rampant drug activity behind those canvas zippers.
But drug sales and drug use outside the tents are so blatant it's stunning. People light crack pipes and inject heroin without even looking over their shoulders. It's one big block party after another.
I see it every time I'm anywhere east of Spring Street between roughly 3rd and 8th streets.
The cops must need help if they can't see what's going on out there, sometimes within a couple of blocks of the Central Station. Maybe I could help direct them.
At 4:30 p.m., I headed south on Spring Street.
By 5:15, I had been solicited three times.
I was also eyeballed several times by guys who didn't look as if they were just admiring the downtown architecture. I'm guessing some of them thought I was an undercover cop.
My first connection was at 7th and Spring, where a guy lingering on one corner crossed the street to check me out. He wasn't sure what to make of me, so he walked to 7th and Main and spoke to another guy who now walked toward me wearing a white towel over his shoulder.
Lots of white towels on shoulders out there, as if waiters are coming by to explain the menu.
"What you need?" the young guy asked. He was about 20.
"I'm OK," I said, and I kept walking.
How did I know to go to that corner, you ask?
Because almost every time I travel Spring or Main I see dealers working. There aren't any tents there, but there's plenty of action, and sometimes I see runners heading between there and the heart of skid row to the east.
I didn't even go to skid row on my shopping spree, because that would have been too easy. I've seen dealers brazenly counting money, and on Friday morning I saw a guy drive along San Julian Street, casually get out of his car, buy some crack, smoke it, get back in the car and drive away — and this was a block and a half from the police station.
When I hit Main I turned north and was halfway between 6th and 5th when a guy about 30 years old asked if I wanted anything for my pipe. I wasn't carrying a pipe and he wasn't talking about Prince Albert in a can.
There's such a blatant drug operation on this street, next to a parking garage, that they might as well put up signs. Yeah, I know police have to see a transaction in order to make an arrest, but let's beef up the undercover corps and get things cleaned up.
The LAPD claims it doesn't have the manpower, and that's a better argument than their tent lament, but still not an acceptable reason for inaction. If police quit making excuses, and the politicians get off the dime and start bringing in the supportive housing, rehab and mental health services that are so desperately needed, then law-abiding residents and merchants can be rid of this nightmare.
While I was telling my man that I didn't really want any drugs, he looked over my shoulder and yelled, "Long john."
No, he wasn't selling underwear. A cop car was approaching, he was the lookout and I guess "long john" was the signal.
Officers Holbrook and Fischer really blew my undercover operation. Dealers scattered as the team pulled up and got out of their car. Officer Fischer asked a couple of women herding three small children what they were doing there, which I thought was a pretty good question.
Everyone is "smoking rock" around here, Fischer said, and it didn't make the best playground, but the women showed no inclination to move on.
The officers told me they work Main between 3rd and 8th. Holbrook said it can be frustrating to break up one operation and have dealers just move over to the next block.
I suggested having a cop on a bike ride in circles around every block. That would knock this thing down big-time, I said, but the officers told me they didn't have the resources and then said they weren't authorized to conduct interviews.
Hey, I'm not authorized to work narcotics, but the LAPD obviously needs help.
I worked my way back to 8th, then cut over to Spring again and came upon an aggressive dealer between 5th and 6th. This guy was somewhere between his late teens and early 20s, and he was actually waving me over.
I asked if he had any crack.
He shook his head no.
"What do you have?" I asked.
"Heroin," he said.
Geez, I might have had a five o'clock shadow and maybe I looked a little haggard at the end of a long workweek, but did I look like a heroin addict?
"How much?" I asked.
"Fifty dollars," he said.
Pretty steep. I decided to go home and crack a beer instead.
Memo to Police Chief Bill Bratton: I'm available if you need me.
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