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News

"Police State" on Skid Row or Are Things Getting Better?

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The ACLU of Southern California has charged the LAPD with creating a “police state” in downtown’s Skid Row and seek to extend a 3-year-old injunction that declared arbitrary searches on Skid Row illegal. The ACLU argues that the 4th amendment protection from arbitrary searches has been violated by LAPD officers who have been searching through the pockets, possessions and encampments of the homeless since Skid Row sweeps began last September.

The LA Times reports:

“Police are also detaining homeless people for minor infractions such as jaywalking or sitting on the sidewalk, then using those pretexts as a basis to search them. Shawn Robertson was packing up his belongings one morning last November when police stood him against a wall and handcuffed him. They searched his stuff, ran his name, then let him go.”
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Yet, few can argue that since the hotly-contested sweeps began, the streets of Skid Row are eerily quiet. The problem, it seems, has lessened. But have these people truly vanished, or have they simply gone elsewhere and will return once again after the police sweeps stop? The Downtown Los Angeles Homeless Map shows a continual movement of homeless throughout downtown and, more to the point, a significant drop in the number of homeless counted by the LAPD. The count reached 1,391 in November and is now down to 700 as of March 15th.

The Central City East Association thinks these numbers are moving in the right direction and are convinced that the police involvement in Skid Row is helping:

"Fifty specially trained police officers were dispatched here in September, and the results are nothing short of remarkable. Here, for example, is what you won't hear from the ACLU:
• Last year, the Central City East Association's security dispatch center received an average of 532 calls a month for open-air drug activity. Last month, we received 383 calls.
• Instead of an average 2100 calls a month involving persons sick, mentally ill or unable to care for themselves, last month we received 729.
These statistics are still unacceptable, but we are on the right track attributable directly to the LAPD's special enforcement. I challenge the ACLU of Southern California to compare their ability to save lives on Skid Row with the LAPD's."

While we know any truly effective homeless plan must be long term and cannot be neatly summed up in a few short paragraphs, we do wonder what will become of the area if the ACLU wins an extension of the injunction and the LAPD sweeps are stopped. With downtown poised for so much growth, what is the right solution, not just the right-now solution?

Photo by mattlogelin via Flickr