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780 Seized Citywide in Massive Weekend Police Drug Sweep

Times Staff Writer

Sweeping through dozens of parks and back alleys and around street corners, 280 Los Angeles police officers arrested 780 suspected drug sellers and users over the weekend, Chief Daryl F. Gates announced Monday.

Officers in the special narcotics task force seized $358,978 worth of narcotics, $30,071 in cash and 30 guns in making the arrests at 300 locations in neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles, Gates said.

No shots were fired and there were no major incidents, officers in charge of the operation said.

Gates said the task force did not require the use of special weapons and tactics teams or the department’s battering ram vehicle in making the arrests, some of which occurred at 13 “rock houses,” heavily fortified residences where rock cocaine was being sold.

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Previous Sweep

The three-day sweep was the second in recent months. Last November, 682 suspects were arrested by a similar citywide narcotics task force. The efforts will continue, Gates vowed, until “we have recaptured our streets for good people.”

This weekend’s operation, like the one in November, was not aimed at major suppliers of narcotics, officers stressed. Instead, its purpose was to clean up neighborhoods--at least temporarily--that are frequented by street dealers and their customers.

Of the 780 arrests last weekend, about half were on felony charges and half for misdemeanor offenses, Cmdr. Frank Piersol said. The drugs involved were heroin, marijuana, cocaine and barbiturates, he said.

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All but 41 of those arrested were adults and the total arrests were distributed fairly evenly through the West, Central, South and Valley bureaus of the department’s jurisdiction.

Gates said the operation came as part of the department’s “commitment to getting rid of narcotics traffic in this city.”

He said the district attorney’s office cooperated by assigning extra deputy district attorneys to weekend duty to expedite arraignments. Gates singled out Municipal Judge Ramona Perez who, he said, extended court hours to speed the arraignment proceedings and increased bail from the usual $1,000 to $5,000 in many of the cases where those arrested were found to be on probation, have pending court cases or have given false names to officers.

Better Record Checks

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In some cases, the bail increase allowed police to detain many of the suspects longer, allowing for better record checks while those arrested were still in jail.

One person, who initially provided police with a phony identification, was later found to be a murder suspect, Gates said.

Because they had the time to do a thorough record check, officers were able to learn that the man, identified only as Alfredo Hernandez, was wanted in a 1984 murder in the Rampart Division. Hernandez had allegedly held the victim while Hernandez’s partner shot him during a drug theft, officers said.

Involved in the weekend sweep were police narcotics units, anti-gang details and other personnel.

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