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Los Angeles

297 Arrested in Crackdown on Drug Dealing in Westlake Area

Crime: Federal agents and the LAPD targeted sellers and clients. It was not a response to Rampart, chief says.

July 18, 2001|DANIEL HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles police and federal drug agents on Tuesday announced the results of a four-month joint operation that included nearly 300 drug-related arrests in the city's Westlake area.

A dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents and eight detectives and officers from the LAPD's Rampart Division made 297 arrests in the operation, seizing drugs that officials estimated to be worth more than $1.8 million on the street. Agents and officers confiscated nine guns and about $60,000 in cash.

At least six of those arrested have received settlements from the city in the aftermath of the Rampart corruption scandal, in which dozens of convictions were set aside amid allegations of wrongdoing by Rampart's anti-gang unit, said Det. Perry Moore.

The deployment, called the Mobile Enforcement Team joint operation, used undercover and surveillance tactics to target street-level dealers, suppliers and their customers. The arrests mostly involved heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and crack cocaine, authorities said.

Police Chief Bernard C. Parks joined investigators to announce results of the operation, which they said has contributed to a 5% decline in crime in the Westlake area compared with last year.

"We're pleased to be here to announce that police work is alive and well in the Rampart area, contrary to some of the public reports that officers are not doing their job or that there's been a withdrawal in concern as it relates to the public of this community," Parks said. Despite that, "We did not choose [the area] because of the Rampart scandal," but because of the magnitude of crime problems in the area, Parks said. "We don't do everything in relation to the Rampart scandal."

Area residents said Tuesday afternoon that crime has indeed dropped in the area.

"It's changed. I walk around here at night and the police are always going everywhere," said Rafael Martinez, a 60-year-old janitor who has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years.

"It's calmed down a lot. Everything has," agreed Ramon Cervantes, 38, who has worked for four years in a taco shop a block away from the Rampart Division station. "On the one hand it's good, but then we don't want police to abuse their position."

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