First the start of the story in the Times - and then after that - the REAL story behind the story:
LAPD announces busts of major heroin supplier
By Richard Winton
Times Staff Writer
7:53 PM PDT, March 14, 2007
LOS ANGELES -- For decades, the Fifth and Hill gang was the biggest drug dealer in downtown Los Angeles.
The leaders lived in the suburbs, where they produced thousands of heroin balloons at their homes and then had middlemen deliver them downtown.Day laborers, homeless people and even some children as young as 12 helped peddle the heroin.
The Los Angeles Police Department had struggled to destroy the gang, frequently arresting low-level dealers only to see them replaced immediately.
But on Wednesday, police announced the results of a months-long crackdown that they contend has dismantled the gang, and with it a main source of heroin in Los Angeles.
Police recovered 45,000 balloons of heroin during the 10-month investigation. They also found 85 pounds of tar heroin -- enough when diluted to fill a half-million balloons.
Officers arrested 31 people they described as the leaders of the gang, as well as scores of street sellers who allegedly worked for them. They finally reached the kingpins, detectives said, thanks to video surveillance tapes that tracked the movement of drugs in and out of downtown.
The LAPD's much touted crackdown on skid row has resulted in 5,400 arrests and a 30 percent drop in crime since it began in September.
The arrests come as the LAPD enters the seventh month of a major crackdown on drugs, crime and blight downtown. It's part of a larger effort by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief William J. Bratton to revive the skid row area, which has the largest concentration of both homeless people and drug dealing in the city. More than 20 percent of all Los Angeles drug arrests occur on skid row.
The LAPD assigned 50 extra officers to downtown in September, and this deployment helped the efforts to attack Fifth and Hill, Smith said.
Police started arresting hundreds more suspects a week. And slowly, Smith said, they got low-level dealers to identify middlemen, who then ultimately connected them to top leaders.
Detectives got lucky thanks to the growing number of surveillance video cameras in downtown.
Once they got a line on middlemen driving the drugs into downtown, police used two dozen video cameras connected to the Central station to find the car license plates and track their movements. This eventually led them to the kingpins, Smith said....
Now don't forget to go to the link and read the rest of the article.
Ok - as the real story.
First, Ramona Ripston and the ACLU fought the cleaning up of Skid Row every step of the way and they are still trying to stop the cleaning up of Skid Row and making it safer for the real homeless (as opposed to the drug dealers posing among them) and the people who live there. And if the city had settled their lawsuit - none of this would have been able to happen which means if the two groups who met with the LA Times editorial board on one day had not convinced them to oppose the settlement, the lawsuit would have likely been settled and Skid Row would still be in the hands of the drug lords.
Second, the cameras that solved the problem were a long time coming and almost didn't happen and even then, they almost didn't get installed correctly.
I first got involved in the cameras some years ago when the CRA was doling out grants in the Old Bank District and I managed to get some money funneled not to buddies of the people in power (for a rare change) but to instead pay to install security cameras in the area. Unfortunately, the local BID (Business Improvement District) did not agree to take ownership of the cameras, and the project died.
Then almost two years ago, the camera proposal came back due to the success of the cameras in MacArthur Park and then, later, Hollywood - the latter cameras which, of course, were attacked by Ramona Ripston and the ACLU.
Now, though, I was on the BID Board as a rep and several of us pushed for buying the cameras. Most of the others wanted to apply for grants, but we argued there was not the time to spend another two years waiting for grants. Some of the others then suggested we tax all the property owners evenly but that would require a special election and, again, at least a full year would be lost, and if 51% of the property owners voted no, then we'd be back where we started.
So several of us pushed for voluntary assessments of $10,000 for larger buildings and $5,000 for smaller buildings for the down payment - with the rest being financed and we were given the go ahead. And in a matter of weeks we got the pledges and in a few months, we had the money for a couple dozen cameras (more or less, but that's a whole another story...).
But that's when the real problems started.
First, we had to convince property owners to allow the cameras on their buildings and then we had to place them where the police had advised the camera company they wanted them. But mid-way through that process, I started looking at the recommended camera positions and realized that many of them had their sight lines blocked by trees and awnings and that others were on buildings that had no view of the sidewalk up the street since the building across the street stuck out further than the building the camera was on, but no one had noticed this.
It then required three of us to walk and check the site lines of every building on every corner in the area (and at multiple heights on each building) and then convince the police to allow the camera company to correctly install the cameras after which we had to convince a whole new set of property owners to let us install the cameras on their buildings.
After that, came the endless months and months of technical problems and structural problems and political problems and having to find new solutions on a weekly (if not daily) basis to protect the proper sight lines for each of the cameras.
Then a year later - they flicked on a switch at Central... and the non-stop drug busts started.
So the article says all it took was installing a couple dozen cameras.... but as you can see, in many ways and at many times, it almost didn't happen.