Many of the city's top advocates for the homeless recently sent a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asking him to take “reexamine Skid Row” and reconsider how the city deploys police in the Center City East area.
In 2006, following coverage in the Weekly, LA CityBeat the Los Angeles Times, the city embarked on a Safer Cities Initiative (SCI) to crack down on open-air drug bazaars and other quality-of-life crimes that helped to make Skid Row the worst homeless zone in the nation.
However, the letter signatories, including Jim Howat, CEO of Volunteers of America, Rev. Cecil L. Murray, and Michael Alvidrez, executive director of the Skid Row Housing Trust, say that police should return to focusing on serious crime instead of rounding up homeless people for minor infractions, a cornerstone of the initiative.
The letter cites statistics that both crime and homelessness are down in the area and argues that police resources should be transferred elsewhere. “Because violent crime has fallen to a level below that of many other neighborhoods, it is appropriate to redeploy some SCI resources to other parts of the city that have greater need for police resources,” states the letter.
The main point of the writers, however, is to shift law enforcement in the area more toward “community policing:” “The signers also include SCI opponents who believe it did not strike the proper balance between law enforcement and social services, pushed the homeless into jails and other neighborhoods, and criminalized poverty.”