The number of people dying of natural causes and drug overdoses on Los Angeles’ skid row has been cut by more than half since the LAPD began a crackdown on homeless encampments in the downtown area, Police Chief William J. Bratton said Thursday. In a briefing of the 50 extra police officers deployed on skid row, Bratton said 15 people have died on the streets of natural causes, including exposure, in the first four months of this year, compared with 34 during the same period in 2006, reports the city’s Times.
Bratton said seven people have died of drug overdoses in 2007 compared with 15 during the same period in 2006. More than 2,000 arrests made during a crackdown against drug offenses on skid row are thought to be helping reduce the overdose rate. The LAPD’s Safer Cities Initiative was launched in September 2006 with the deployment of 50 additional officers who have enforced drug laws as well as a ban on sleeping on sidewalks during the daytime. As a result, the number of people sleeping most nights on skid row dropped from 1,876 to 700, with many entering shelters or moving to other neighborhoods, police said.