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Community News: Mid-City

WESTLAKE : Residents March Against Drugs

October 25, 1992|IRIS YOKOI

Karen Jaeger was fed up with the drug dealing and prostitution that had crept into the Echo Park neighborhood where she has lived for 20 years. Hundreds of her neighbors were too.

Together, they decided to take their streets back, if only for one night a week. About 200 Echo Park and Westlake residents unite Tuesday nights to march against crime.

The multicultural group gathers at the Church of Christ on Union Avenue and walks a couple of miles, shouting "No more drugs!" in English, Spanish and Tagalog. The marchers carry flashlights and signs, and they drum on pots, pans and coffee cans while Jaeger and others lead the procession by belting out the message through a megaphone.

A couple of police officers accompany the marchers, keeping a watchful eye on the group and the surroundings.

The weekly marches began two months ago after Neighborhood Watch groups got together and shared stories about drugs being sold in front of their homes and prostitutes roaming Beverly Boulevard.

The residents decided to march to "give people a sense of ownership of their neighborhoods again," said Jaeger, leader of the Beverly-Temple Neighborhood Watch.

John Hutton of Westlake said: "The police don't have the manpower to fight it all."

Jose Hercules, another Westlake resident, said he worries most about the effects of crime on local children. "I care about the kids," said Hercules as he walked along Burlington Avenue during a recent march. "You have to let the people know we care for the neighborhood."

Donna Banos, 12, agreed. "We want to change the city," said the Melrose Elementary School student as she marched with a handwritten "No Drugs" sign.

The march has drawn as many as 400, involving numerous community groups, students and a city council member or two on occasion. And residents insist they've been successful in driving out some of the drug dealers.

"Before the march, you could see them right in front of the church, doing their business, 24 hours a day," said Susan Juatco. "Now you hardly ever see them."

Los Angeles police officers said the residents' marches, combined with increased patrols and arrests, appear to have had an impact. Although he didn't have statistics, Officer Webster Wong said he has noticed a difference. "I'm out there at night, and I'm seeing less and less drug dealers," he said.

Information: Juanita DeLlomes at (213) 250-7921 or Cinthia Mah (213) 250-4271.

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