Drug addicts called it “The Show:” A circus of prostitution, crack-smoking, and schizophrenic collapse on the streets on Los Angeles’s skid row, with 4,000 homeless people. Now, the Washington Post says that things are changing. In the latest application of the “broken windows” approach Police Chief William Bratton used in New York, police are targeting petty crimes to discourage violent crime and other serious violations. “The behavior on Skid Row was ‘anything goes,’ ” said Capt. Andrew J. Smith. “I think we need to have the same standards of behavior as they do in Brentwood or West L.A.,” well-heeled parts of the city.
Since the police Safer City Initiative began in September, an extra 50 police officers have worked skid row. Trees are trimmed for better lighting. Police write tickets for jaywalking and public urination and have made more than 1,400 drug arrests. During the daytime, they enforce a law against sleeping on the sidewalk. Violent crime in the first week of March is down 36 percent from last year; property crime is down 38 percent. Half as many people sleep on the streets there as did five months ago. Social workers staff the police station, urging addicts to enroll in rehab programs instead of going to jail. The city attorney is investigating patient-dumping cases with an eye to prosecuting hospitals that leave patients on the street. The Post says that, “Whether the crackdown is a blessed relief or a harsh attempt to criminalize homelessness depends on who is talking.”