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Stomping on L.A.'s scalpers

Editorial

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich is seeking an injunction to bar them from going anywhere near L.A.'s most popular sports and concert venues. That's overkill.

August 12, 2012
  • City Atty. Carmen Trutanich has filed suit to bar L.A.s most prolific scalpers from the citys most high-profile venues, including the Staples Center, seen above on May 17.
City Atty. Carmen Trutanich has filed suit to bar L.A.s most prolific scalpers… (Los Angeles Times )

Unable to stop ticket scalpers from repeatedly violating city laws, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich has filed suit to bar 17 of them — and potentially many more — from setting foot anywhere near five of Los Angeles' most popular sports and concert venues. The injunction sought by Trutanich is the same forceful tool he has used repeatedly against a growing list of targets, including violent criminal gangs, graffiti "taggers" and drug dealers on skid row. And while critics complain about injunctions' effect on civil liberties, there are times when they're appropriate. Combating ticket scalpers, however, isn't one of them.

The city attorney's complaint against the scalpers recites a litany of bad acts, ranging from operating a business without a license to reselling tickets that had been donated to poor children. Furthermore, the lawsuit contends, the scalpers cause traffic jams, harass fans and compete unfairly with legitimate ticket sales. Most are felons, and many commit their crimes as teams.

Whether they're a public nuisance on the level of gangbangers and drug dealers, however, is another question. True, city ordinances expressly forbid people from selling tickets to events while on public property or in a place open to the public, and state law bars people from reselling tickets at the venue for more than face value. But while scalping may be an unmitigated evil for ticket sellers and venue owners, it's a mixed blessing for consumers. Scalpers may drive up prices and occasionally sell counterfeit ducats, but they also provide a convenient outlet to unload extra tickets or find seats at the last minute.

DOCUMENT: Read the City Attorney's injunction request

The main rationale for seeking an injunction here seems to be that, despite countless undercover operations and roundups, the city hasn't stopped scalpers from returning again and again to Dodger Stadium, Staples Center and other event sites. As one vice officer said in an affidavit: "They have been completely undeterred by citation, arrest and prosecution."

Nevertheless, using an injunction to stop recidivist scalpers would be like using dynamite on an anthill. If conventional law enforcement truly is ineffective at stopping scalpers, the city attorney would be better off seeking tougher criminal penalties for repeat offenders. Meanwhile, event promoters and venue operators should look for ways to satisfy the demand that's keeping scalpers in business. In fact, they already are implementing a number of anti-scalping strategies, such as reserving blocks of seats for sale at the ticket window just before the event. That kind of response addresses the root cause of the scalping problem. An injunction would not.

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