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Skid Row Study: L.A. Can’t Arrest Its Way Out of Homelessness Problem

November 14, 2007

Los Angeles, CA - Los Angeles city leaders can crack down on crime all they want, but they can't arrest their way out of the homelessness problem along skid row. Critics of the year-old "Safer City Initiative" say it isn't providing a solution to the central problem. U.C.L.A. Professor Gary Blasi, author of a new report about the situation, believes the homeless are being unfairly targeted.

"We've moved the problem into the jail system and into other neighborhoods. We have not, thus far, been successful at moving folks into housing -- which everybody, including the chief of police, understands as the ultimate solution."

Since the crackdown began last year, the 50 additional police officers assigned to the skid row area have made 9,000 arrests. Blasi is concerned that many of the same people are being arrested over and over again. He argues the added pressure has forced some to move into other areas and away from the support services they need. Blasi believes Los Angeles should look at how other cities have managed to help the homeless, and their budgets, simultaneously.

"The solution is to get people into housing and then help them deal with their problems. In cities that have adopted that strategy, they have found not only that they've decreased the number of chronically homeless people on the streets, but they've actually saved quite a lot of money."

Blasi's report concludes the city should spend less time and money policing, and focus more resources on shelters, affordable housing, and the services necessary to keep people from living on the streets.

Lori Abbott/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - CA