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Santa Ana Ordinance Seeks to Curb Pay-Phone Crimes


SANTA ANA — A law that would require the removal of pay telephones used for drug sales, prostitution and other crimes was approved Tuesday by the City Council.

In what is considered the first of its kind for Orange County but part of a growing trend throughout the state, the city ordinance seeks to curb crimes transacted through pay telephones and pagers and would allow the removal of the phones for one year if they are declared a "public nuisance."

The ordinance was approved despite a request from a Pacific Bell spokeswoman that it be delayed for one year in order to give the pay telephone industry a chance to weed out vendors who refuse to cooperate with police at problem locations.

City officials previously pledged to be sensitive to the needs of the community. But they said the ordinance was needed to handle cases where the vendors and business owners that have the phones have refused to cooperate.

"We need to be able to afford a little security protection, and this is what it's all about," Councilman Robert L. Richardson said.

About 50 pay telephone vendors do business in Santa Ana.

Some pay telephone industry representatives said previously that removal of the phones should be the last resort, particularly in Santa Ana, where a large number of low-income citizens rely on public phones because they do not have residential service.

Industry officials also estimated that 20% of all calls to the 911 emergency line statewide are placed through pay telephones.

Under the ordinance, the city staff will monitor citizen complaints and police records to determine whether a specific pay telephone is a public nuisance.

If the property owner or phone company declines to take voluntary actions to correct the problem--such as blocking incoming telephone calls or relocating the phones to areas with better lighting--the city will initiate a hearing to have the instrument removed for one year.

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