Los Angeles Police Department officials are divided over two proposals for cleaning up skid row: an ambitious effort to move thousands of homeless people off the streets and another focused primarily on reducing crime, the Los Angeles Times reports. The debate comes as the city struggles to develop a comprehensive strategy for solving downtown’s entrenched problems. Last week, police declared one of skid row’s most notorious sections a “drug-free zone” after altercations between homeless people and officers.
The more radical of the two plans is being pushed by Assistant Chief George Gascon, who wants the police department to rid the area of its ubiquitous tent and box cities. Chief William Bratton had called for removing the tent cities, but the department scaled back its plans after the American Civil Liberties Union sued, saying the practice violated homeless people’s civil rights. Others are backing a blueprint for skid row drafted by criminologist George Kelling of “broken windows” fame. He argues that rather than removing homeless people wholesale from the streets, police should focus on criminals, including drug dealers and prostitutes, who he says create a “culture of lawlessness” in the area. Bratton is mulling what approach to take, with a decision expected in the next few weeks.