by Rebecca Fairley Raney

The Daily Report/Progress Bulletin

Sunday, Feb. 4, 1990

Police crack down on crack with Operation Hot Spots


IT'S 8 O'CLOCK on a Saturday night, and the drug trade is hopping in Pomona. The dealers know it. The buyers know it. The cops know it.

Twenty officers are out tonight in plain white cars. They aren't waiting for calls to come in; they're looking for trouble in the worst parts of the city.

The first place they look is an area in northeast Pomona known as "The Islands."

An undercover officer goes in to buy crack. His colleagues wait nearby, engines running, headlights out, to hear the radio broadcast that describes the person who sells him the drugs.

The broadcast comes.

" . . . Second house south of Digby, male black, 200 pounds. The other is a male Mexican, about 4 feet 10 . . . "

But before the cops find them, the undercover guy makes a second broadcast.

"I just did another one. Black male, dark blue sweatshirt . . . "

Three police cars converge. They find the man in the sweatshirt standing with a woman on a dark street. His hands are in the air before the police are out of their cars.

When they search him, a $20 bill drops out of his pants pocket -- the marked bill the officer gave him.

As the man is led away, Lt. Larry Todd tells the girl on the street: "You're lucky. You didn't go to jail and your friend did. How old are you?"

He shines the flashlight in her eyes to check her pupils.

"Twenty-two," she says.

The size of her pupils is normal; no indication of heroin or cocaine use.

"Where do you live?"

"Down the street."

"Well, that's where you should go," Todd says.

THEY BUSTED people left and right that night. By 2 a.m., the Operation Hot Spots team had taken in 17.

The team is a beefed-up version of the department's major crimes task force.

As part of a monthlong experiment, the department has added more officers to the group and changed its emphasis.

Whereas the team used to concentrate on catching big-time drug dealers, now it is hitting the people the public complains about most: street dealers, prostitutes and gang members.

The team's objective, in short, is to clean up the worst parts of town -- the "hot spots."

They identify those spots in several ways.

If the department receives four or five complaints a day about an area, the area makes the list. A spate of gang violence will make an area a target. If the department's computer printouts reveal a pattern of calls, the area will hit the list.

The team's activities in those areas are high-profile.

Todd said they're sending a message.

"What we try to do is go out and make a scene out of it -- put arrestees on the ground face-down, let the public see," he said.


IT'S 12:30 A.M., and an undercover officer has gone to buy crack in a west Pomona neighborhood called "Sintown" -- a neighborhood where killings are common.

He makes a purchase, and the broadcast comes out.

" . . . white shirt, dark pants, red comb sticking out of his back pocket . . . "

But there's a big problem around the corner.

Another undercover officer is parked, waiting for his colleague to complete the drug deal, when a man walks up to his car and asks what he is doing.

The officer says he's waiting for some friends.

The man tells him to leave. The officer doesn't leave.

The man grabs a gun.

The officer speeds off with a broadcast: " . . . male Mexican in the middle of the street, may have a gun . . . "

Four police cars close in in no time.

Six officers are out of their cars, guns drawn, standing behind their car doors.

"Lay down!" Officer Fred Robison yells. "Put your hands straight up. Spread your legs! Spread your legs! Don't move."

The officers find a revolver.

Within seconds, the man and two others are face-down in the yard, illuminated by the high beams from four police cars.

As the man is taken away, the undercover officer makes a simple statement over the radio: "The guy was going to shoot me."



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