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LAPD Ram Knocks Down the Total of ‘Rock Houses’

Fear of the Los Angeles Police Department’s motorized battering ram seems to have decreased the number of “rock houses” in Los Angeles. But the new contraption probably has not had a marked effect on the amount of cocaine being sold, Los Angeles narcotics officials say.

Within weeks of the ram’s unveiling, Los Angeles police said it appeared to have caused a small-scale exodus of rock houses to areas outside the city, but the exodus seems to have slowed.

Stressing that it is simply an estimate, Lt. Dick Koskelin, head of the Police Department’s South Bureau Narcotics Division, said the number of fortified rock houses in South-Central Los Angeles has probably shrunk from about 200 when the ram was first used on Feb. 6 to 100 or so now.

The decrease in cocaine sales attributable to the battering ram is “very minuscule,” however, said Lt. J. R. Schiller, spokesman for the Narcotics Division. “Rock sales are just the tip of the iceberg to total cocaine sales. . . . The drug level is still at an astronomical amount.”

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Dealers on the Move

What the motorized battering ram has done, Koskelin said, is make rock house operators more cagey. Before, he said, rock house operators felt safe because they could generally destroy the drugs by the time police broke through the fortifications. Now, Koskelin said, many rock house owners are forced to move their operations every few weeks.

Rock house dealers are also increasingly moving their operations into buildings where there’s less likelihood of arousing suspicion with heavy foot traffic. “Typically in the South end, we now see a lot of rock houses in jukebox places, hamburger stands, hand car washes, automotive stores, that kind of thing,” the detective said.

Police are now seeing a trend to deal larger quantities of the drug and to keep smaller quantities on hand inside a rock house to decrease the risk factor, Koskelin added.

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In addition, there are fewer barkers standing on street corners hawking rock house wares. More rock houses, Koskelin said, are hiring lookouts, sometimes children on bicycles to keep an eye out for police. And some dealers have tried surrounding rock houses with parked cars, as if to create a barrier for the ram.


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