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Last day of Skid Row cleanup; about 10 arrests made for sidewalk law violations

By Hayley Fox
Published: Friday, July 06, 2012, at 11:15AM
Bear Guerra/KPCC

Today is the last day of Phase I of the Skid Row cleanup -- Phase II will include circling back to areas that are especially problematic.

The massive Skid Row cleanup, which began last month in response to a laundry list of citations from the LA County Department of Health, is now in its final day of its first phase.

This process has included clearing out area residents nearly block-by-block to make way for cleaning crews to power wash the streets and remove any property deemed a biohazard.

"Short term, we have to clean up the street and make it safe," Pat Butler, the assistant chief of LAFD and the spokesman for Operation Healthy Streets, told Blogdowntown on the first day of the cleanup. "I saw 50 hypodermic needles and the trucks were filled with feces and urine. But if you look at the street now, it looks beautiful."

The last leg of the cleaning is scheduled for today on 6th Street between Gladys Avenue and Wall Street, but Capt. Horace Frank of the LAPD said "problematic" areas (such as San Julian and Towne) will be revisited in Phase II of the plan.

With this sweeping facelift have come a renewed focus from law enforcement to enforce two main laws in the area; 41.18, which prohibits sitting or lying on the sidewalk, and 56.11, which says that individuals aren't allowed to store their possessions on the sidewalk.

The latter law is an arrestable offense -- and over the past week police have arrested eight to ten people in Skid Row for keeping belongings on the sidewalks.

Beefed up police involvement was slated for Phase III of the project, but Frank said they're not waiting until then.

"We're enforcing the issue right now," Frank stated.

Pete White, co-director and founder of Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), told Blogdowntown last month that his organization "wholly supports" the cleanup -- as do many of the area's residents. White doesn't believe however that the police should be using their resources to enforce laws that target the homeless, including the disabled and the elderly.

"That's a moral choice the city of Los Angeles has to make," said White.

Overall, the process has run fairly smooth, Frank said, but it will take time for Skid Row residents to get "acclimated" to the new level of enforcement.

"It took them over a year to get to where it is right now," he said. "You're not going to just end it in two or three weeks."

A seemingly increasing number of Skid Row residents have been using shopping carts to store their belongings -- which also keeps them mobile. Frank said that if people do store their stuff in this way, they will most likely not be bothered by police.

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