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Public Phones Removed in L.B. in Effort to Chase Drug Dealers

June 25, 1987

LONG BEACH — At 20th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, only two of six public telephones remain. The corner of 21st Street and Atlantic Avenue has no phones, and neither does the intersection of 17th Street and Orange Avenue.

The experiment of removing public telephones from some central-city intersections answers complaints by residents who suspected drug dealers and loiterers were the biggest users of the phones.

Since a City Council meeting almost two months ago, when city and General Telephone Co. officials pledged to work together, GTE has removed 10 telephones, according to GTE Division Manager Roger P. Reyburn.

The reaction has been positive, Councilman Clarence Smith said. Residents "say they can sleep now at night. They can go to the store" without being harassed, Smith said.

People who live near 20th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue had petitioned the council to remove the phones from their neighborhood dairy mart because they were used primarily by "winos, drunks, drug dealers and pushers."

Although some officials expressed concern that removing the equipment would take away a service needed by those who do not have their own telephones, the city and GTE agreed to experiment by removing some public phones. Police also have responded more frequently to those neighborhoods and "moved some of the undesirables," Smith said.

"It was a major problem in those areas and it has resolved the problem thus far, to some extent," Smith said.

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