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PLAN TARGETS PART OF WINNETKA CRIME-CUTTING PROGRAM TO CONCENTRATE ON AT-RISK AREA SOURCE} BY DOMINIC BERBEO STAFF WRITER.

A city program credited with cutting crime and blight in North Hills will now be focused on a drug-ridden section of Winnetka, officials said Wednesday.

Residents and police said drug dealing, gangs, robbery and slum housing are problems that need immediate attention in the area bounded by Keswick Street to the north, Sherman Way to the south, Mason Avenue to the west and Winnetka Avenue to the east.

The Winnetka area is less than a quarter the size of the North Hills area targeted by the program in September 1997, but police said the problems are similar.

``This is a step in trying to take back the neighborhood,'' said Los Angeles Police Lt. Gary Hallden. ``There is a significant number of parolees living in and around the area and drug sales is definitely a problem.''

A public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. today to involve residents in the block project, which teams prosecutors and police for drug busts, parole violations and evictions. Other city agencies, including the Department of Public Works, will work on cutting blight.

City Attorney James Hahn says that since things have improved in North Hills, the city wants to focus on areas where serious situations can be prevented.

``We want to find areas that are just starting to slip,'' he said. ``In Winnetka, we can still keep things from getting out of control.''

Of particular concern are Saticoy Street and Sherman Way, where drug dealers have moved into low-rent apartments, many advertising ``$99 move-in'' deals, said Deputy City Attorney Tina Hess, supervising attorney of CNAP, the Citywide Nuisance Abatement Program.

``We're going to spend a lot of time training apartment building owners to screen potential tenants and fix slum conditions that are conducive to crime,'' Hess said.

A preliminary city study showed about one car was reported stolen a week in the area in 1999, and violent crimes occurred almost daily.

City Councilwoman Laura Chick, who represents the area and helped create the Nuisance Abatement Program, said Winnetka needs the extra attention.

``It's one of the worst areas in my district,'' Chick said. ``We've been aware of the possibility of the area sliding down in decay and blight.''

Danny Erbaugh, an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Winnetka, said several members of his congregation have expressed concern about crime in the area.

``It's another pocket of crime, like so many others in the Valley,'' he said. ``It's not the worst, but there are places in the target area I would definitely not feel comfortable walking through at night.''

In North Hills, an area police say contained the most concentrated street sales of illegal drugs in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s, some say the block project has helped.

``The evictions . . . made a dramatic difference for the better without any question,'' said Harry Coleman, director of the North Hills Coordinating Council.

Some residents in North Hills said the program helped clean up the community, but they disagreed with some of the tactics, including a gang injunction that barred alleged gang members from congregating.

``You put 40 kids in jail with an injunction and spend $30,000 each per year to keep them there and then they're back to crime when they get out,'' said the Rev. James Hamilton, who works with at-risk youth at the United Methodist Church in North Hills. ``That's $1.2 million that could go towards education and job placement and make a real difference.''

A key weapon for officials are city and state laws that allow landlords to evict tenants who deal drugs within 1,000 feet of the suspect's unit.

Under the law, hesitant landlords can ask prosecutors to seek evictions, and judges can have the option of evicting only the named tenant. There have been 42 such evictions in the North Hills area, said Tina Hess of CNAP.

Hahn's office reported that between 1997 and 1999, robberies in the target area went down by 62 percent and burglaries decreased by 28 percent.

A public meeting to discuss a new city plan to attack crime and blight in Winnetka is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at John Sutter Middle School, 7330 Winnetka Ave.

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Map: Area targeted by city for drug dealers
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Feb 24, 2000
Words:705
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