Eric Garcetti

LA Gears Up to Combat Gang Activity in Skid Row ‘Tent City'

Los Angeles city officials are in the midst of big changes to tackle the growing dangers of Skid Row, where thousands of homeless people have created their own "tent city" for shelter.

Up until now, police say their hands have been tied in combatting crime in Skid Row because of its environment. In an effort to fight illegal activities there, officials have created a few proposals that would provide resources for Skid Row residents.

"There are hundreds and hundreds of gang members and their associates hiding among the homeless," said Officer Joseph Deon, who has worked in Skid Row for 19 years. "I'm getting so many crime reports with sticks, bats, shovels."

Last month, the NBC4 I-Team exclusively got access to the officer’s work for insight on gang activity in the area. There, they found that prescription drugs were being sold to the homeless as violence against them was rampant. Weapons were also being taken off the streets by officers.

Police say that the so-called tent city is the main reason for the crimes.

"They have the ability of hiding in plain sight," Deon said.

Police said gang members prey on desperate Skid Row residents who are looking for help. Officers said that a recent lawsuit limits their ability to take the tents down.

"We've got to take the criminal elements out if we are going to help those people get off the street," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Garcetti said plans are in motion to help those who live in Skid Row. Trailers are set to be installed as temporary shelters this summer near the El Pueblo de Los Angeles historical monument.

A motion by Councilmember Jose Huizar would expand the plan to the more than thousands of people on Skid Row.

"We will get you a housing voucher, will get you the help that you need – whether it’s mental health or substance abuse," Garcetti said.

Still, homeless advocates said that creating permanent housing is the real solution. The mayor said the city is working with the county to build long-term housing because of new tax payer dollars.

He estimates there will be enough resources for 5,000 homeless people. The homeless population in the city alone is nearly seven times more than that, however.

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