Friday, August 01, 2008

Letters from the Community

Los Angeles’ West Adams neighborhood has endured crime and visual blight in the form of illegal drug use and sales, illegal vending, prostitution, graffiti, dumping, and gang activity for more than twenty-five years. After attending community meetings, the West Adams community members learned about the Neighborhood Prosecutor Program and asked Neighborhood Prosecutor Jan DeAndrade to assist them in abating these problems.

In working to resolve the community’s concerns, she coordinated and collaborated with LAPD, Council Member Herb Wesson’s Office, the Department of Public Works, and local community members to begin restoring hope, law, and order to their neighborhood. The situation is “improving day by day and is evident to everyone who lives here, and is a topic of conversation between neighbors. Everyone notices that it is no longer the chronic, anarchic, lawless, chaotic situation that it once was.”

One member of the community commented, “We still have a way to go, but I'm confident that this territory will…belong to the community and not those who want to exploit it.”

To that effect, the West Adams Quality of Life Committee – part of the West Adams Neighborhood Association – sent this letter to the City Attorney:

Dear Mr. Delgadillo,

I just wanted to let you all know how pleased our committee has been with the help we had from our neighborhood prosecutor, Jan DeAndrade, in our efforts to remedy the blighted and dangerous conditions at the intersection of Crenshaw and Adams Blvds. in West Adams. The day-by- day reclaiming of this intersection has, in no small part, been attributable to the tireless efforts of Ms. DeAndrade.

When our West Adams Quality of Life Committee took on the issue of drug dealing and crime at this intersection, there was a pervasive sense in our community that this situation…had been entrenched for the better part of three decades. It was with an exhausted and bitter resignation that our residents saw this as a lost battle, of no consequence to any but ourselves. The blight at this intersection had caused such community anger that much of it was burned to the ground in the LA riots of 1992. In spite of rebuilding, the grim and corrosive circumstances persisted, created in large measure by the blatant and overt drug dealing of a cartel that swaggered about at all hours with no fear of legal consequence. They claimed our bus shelters, our sidewalks, and large swaths of business property. The intersection was known locally as "Crack Central", and you spent time there at your peril. The drug trade came with its usual fellow travelers: prostitution, burglary, and devastated families.

Our West Adams Quality of Life Committee decided that improving this gateway to our community was imperative. We wanted this intersection back in the hands of residents, rather than under the control of those who sought to exploit and intimidate us. So, we enlisted the support of our neighborhood prosecutor, Jan DeAndrade.

The co-operation we have received from her has been consistent and transformative. She has been the ideal coordinator, pulling together city officials, law enforcement officers, and private business owners needed to work together to turn this situation around. She has encouraged when possible, insisted when necessary, and has not made idle and unfulfilled promises to our community.

Without grandstanding, she has held businesses accountable for eradicating criminal activity on their premises. She has sat through interminable meetings, patiently listening to and addressing a litany of community concerns, and reported progress to our local organizations. She has issued injunctions to prevent criminals from returning to the area upon their release. She has been charming, approachable, reliable, and, above all, relentless in her efforts to help us.

This is how it is supposed to work. This is a real success story of how the neighborhood prosecutor system can take on a daunting and intractable community problem, and make rapid and sustainable progress. The members of our committee wanted to express our gratitude to this particular prosecutor, and to the City Attorney’s Office for initiating this program.


Linda Marais
Writing on behalf of the West Adams Quality of Life Committee