LA’s top law enforcement officers — DA, Sheriff and LAPD Chief — joined City Attorney Carmen Trutanich at Skid Row on Wednesday to announce they were going to use a gang injunction strategy to crack down on rampant drug dealing.
Nearly shouted down by the homeless and homeless advocates, they explained they would seek court orders to bar 80 specific people from Skid Row now and seek to ban up to 300 later.
“The single biggest criminal threat facing this area is the open and
notorious drug dealing,” said Trutanich.
What’s interesting, really interesting, about this is how it represents the undoing of the heart of Bill Bratton’s strategy for reducing serious Category One crime — the violent acts that he so successfully brought down during his seven years in LA.
It was the “Baghdad Strategy” to sectarian violence that helped stem the flow of blood in Iraq: Sunnis could do what they wanted in their neighborhoods, Shiites in their neighborhoods, as long as they stopped blowing each other up and gunning each other down.
Here’s the revealing paragraphs in the LA Times story today:
“The injunction is needed because the more than 30 gangs who control the
skid row drug trade have come to a “mutual understanding” to forgo
rivalries, keep the peace and share business, according to Peter Shutan,
a deputy city attorney.
“The action is the latest step in the city’s attempt to crack down on
crime on skid row. The area has been home to the city’s most
concentrated police presence since 2006, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
and then-Police Chief William J. 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.
“Crime has dropped sharply in recent years — property crime dropped 44%
and violent crime dropped 40% between 2005 and 2009. The decline has
coincided with a downtown revitalization effort that has brought luxury
lofts and trendy shops to the urban core.”
Think about it: 30 gangs have a “mutual understanding” that allows them to engage in rampant drug dealing on Skid Row and avoid the murder and mayhem usually associated with the inevitable rivalries that occur.
They are doing so despite the presence of 50 extra cops and the result is a drop of 40 percent or more in serious crimes against people and property — categories that exclude drug dealing. In fact, of the more than 50 crimes LA readily provides statistics about, drug arrests and seizures are not included.
When I checked more than a year ago, the LAPD’s numbers for drug arrests and seizures showed declines far greater than the numbers for declines in serious crimes.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote about my theory of what was going on in the streets of LA, about how the tough gang cops and many narcotics officers were being assigned to other duties, about how former gang members were being hired to intervene with the gangs to keep them from killing each other or innocent people and to keep the cops from rousting them for drug dealing and other less serious criminal acts.
I wrote then: “It’s a devil’s deal if ever there were one…What’s the price of peace?”
The few paragraphs above are the closest the media has come to engaging the “Baghdad solution” in LA and the announcement Wednesday by local law enforcement officials represents a repudiation of that strategy.
It’s a morally repugnant strategy but I still don’t know if it’s right or wrong because we never have discussed it publicly and looked at the alternatives.
The decision to end the policy on Skid Row should give us a clue. If the 30 gangs and up to 300 gangsters are barred from downtown, where will they set up shop and will they still avoid violent turf wars if there isn’t a cop on every corner keeping the peace?