Skid Row is the epicenter of L.A.’s addiction crisis. More than 12,000 homeless meth and heroin addicts pass through here each year, with thousands living in the vast network of tent encampments that line the sidewalks. For decades, L.A. has centralized public services in this tiny city-within-a-city. The result: it’s become an iron cage of the social state, with the highest concentration of homelessness, addiction, and overdose deaths in Los Angeles County. Fire Station 9, which covers Skid Row, is now the busiest firehouse in America, responding to 35,518 calls for service last year, including a record-high number of overdoses and mental-health crises.Read more here about the failed policies of the Democrat politicians that have made things worsen.
...After a moment, Sergeant Kouvelis, a broad-shouldered man with a military haircut, opens the security door and shakes my hand. As we pass through the back hallways and climb into his white patrol vehicle, Kouvelis, who earned a degree in architecture from USC and served as an officer in the Marine Corps, launches into a short discourse on the political economy of Skid Row. He says that the territory here is divided into sections by street gangs from South Los Angeles, who control the markets for meth, heroin, prostitution, cigarettes, and stolen goods. “This is pretty much the epicenter in L.A. for maintaining your addictions,” Kouvelis says. “You’ve got the gang element that markets their drugs, and it’s predatory. The more people addicted, the better.”
...Roughly a decade ago, Skid Row’s future looked more hopeful. In 2006, Police Chief William Bratton and Central Division Commander Andrew Smith implemented a strategy of Broken Windows policing for Skid Row, called the Safer Cities Initiative, which led to a 42 percent reduction in major felonies, 50 percent reduction in overdose and natural deaths, and 75 percent reduction in homicides. “We’ve broken the back of the problem,” said Chief Bratton then, reporting that the overall homeless population had been reduced from 1,876 people to 700 people—an astonishing success. (See “The Reclamation of Skid Row,” Autumn 2007.)
The progress proved short-lived. Arguing that Broken Windows policing “criminalizes homelessness,” activists slowly dismantled the Safer Cities Initiative through civil rights lawsuits and public pressure campaigns. Today, Skid Row’s homeless population is estimated to be at least 2,500 people, and crime has been rising for years.
...“Since I’ve been here, so many decades, the percentages of the type of drug users has shifted,” says Casanova. “Right now, about 70 percent of [the homeless drug users on Skid Row] are crystal meth users, or a combo of crystal meth and heroin, crystal meth and cocaine. . . . The remaining percentage is probably about 25 percent heroin, and a fair number of cocaine users.” While having such a high percentage of meth users means fewer fatal overdoses per capita in Los Angeles than in cities with higher rates of heroin addiction, like San Francisco, it also means that service providers here must contend with the unique properties of methamphetamines, which flood the body with dopamine and noradrenaline and can induce psychosis and lead to violent behavior.
...Tonight, from the beaches of Venice to the desert towns of Palmdale, more than 59,000 human beings will sleep in tents, cars, and emergency shelters throughout L.A. County. Here, at the corner of Sixth and Wall on Skid Row, a truckful of sanitation workers in yellow vests passes through the streets with water hoses and spray-buckets of bleach, dousing the sidewalks in the hopes of forestalling the next outbreak of typhus, plague, tuberculosis, or leprosy. Fear grows that the next pile of trash or blood-covered rag will set off an epidemic.
Friday, February 21, 2020
"proposed solutions have worsened the problem instead of ameliorated it."
Christopher F. Rufo reports in City Journal about homelessness in L.A.