Los Angeles prosecutors stepped up efforts to combat open-air drug bazaars downtown, the Los Angeles Times reports. They sought a court injunction that would bar gang members as well as a broad category of unnamed “surrogates and associates” from congregating on streets in the central city. The move marks a significant expansion of existing gang injunctions. It is expected to be controversial because it includes not only members of the 5th & Hill gang — for decades the prime heroin supplier downtown — but anyone who has been arrested at least twice for possession for sale of the drug in the proposed enforcement area, which covers 20 square blocks.
Prosecutors said they took the action because the gang tends to use homeless people, teens and women to peddle drugs, allowing the gang to reap profits from a distance while evading arrest. Skid row accounts for about 20 percent of drug sales in the city, and officials have been trying to crack down as the area gentrifies with luxury lofts and trendy bars and eateries. The LAPD over the last year has made about 2,000 drug-related arrests downtown, part of a major crackdown that included the addition of 50 officers patrolling the streets. Deputy City Atty. Bruce Riordan, head of gang operations, stressed that officials were not trying to use the injunction as a tool to sweep up homeless people and addicts.