A story broke out on LA’s Skid Row this year that I never heard of. A drug called Spice, which is synthetic marijuana, sickened dozens of people all in one day. It happened a few times in the area where people are desperate to get high. The cheap joints are sold for $1 each. Here’s a story about the reaction to the arrest of a drug kingpin who sells dope on Skid Row and why it doesn’t matter. Photos are by Nick Ut, the Associated Press. From my story (Daily News, May 27, 2016):
The pre-dawn arrest Wednesday of a suspected drug kingpin and his associates accused of selling narcotics in Los Angeles’ Skid Row likely won’t alleviate a complicated substance abuse cycle deeply embedded in downtown’s homeless, advocates said.
The coordinated sweep, led by the Los Angeles Police Department, netted 16 arrests, including that of alleged leader Derrick Turner of Cerritos, said LAPD spokeswoman Officer Rosario Herrera.
“At this time, it’s an ongoing, serious investigation,” Herrera said, adding that the recent sweep was connected to an arrest made in early March. That arrest led to police to $1.8 million in cash, five firearms, 22 pounds of methamphetamine, 13 pounds of cocaine and 20 pounds of heroin.
Wednesday’s sweep came after more than a dozen people fell ill over the weekend on Skid Row because of what one homeless advocate said was the spread of a tainted batch of fake marijuana known as Spice.
The recent arrests have no connection to Spice, Herrera said. But news of 14 people being sent to area hospitals over the weekend cast what some said was a much needed spotlight on the desperation among those living on Skid Row.
•RELATED STORY: Skid Row overdoses likely caused by tainted batch of street drug Spice
“Arresting one coke dealer doesn’t mean there’s not going to be another one there the next day,” said Chella Coleman, a volunteer with Los Angeles Community Action Network, who also lives on Skid Row.
Coleman said the drug issue is a complicated one that is not easily solved by arrests or cut-and-dry measures.
The number of homeless who live in or near the Skid Row area has increased: from 10,472 in 2013 to 11,681 in 2015, according to the last count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Of those, 30 percent say they have been diagnosed with mental illnesses, while 25 percent say they abuse drugs.
Coleman said some who sell drugs do so because of poverty, while others exploit the homeless. For those who suffer with traumatic memories, turning to drugs seems like the only solution in the area, Coleman noted, adding that the cycle of buying and selling drugs is ongoing in the area because of what she sees as economic injustice.
Robert Green, 50, has lived on Skid Row for 20 years and agreed with Coleman that the recent sweep won’t have much of an effect in the area. In fact, he expects the arrival of more cheap, fake drugs that will further exploit people looking to self-medicate or who can’t afford real marijuana, he said.