Guardian Angels Try to Draw the Line on Drug Sales Along St. Andrews Place
Dennis Morrin stood in his driveway Monday afternoon, looking to his left and right. Then he pointed.
“There’s one now. See that kid on his bike?” Morrin gestured. “There’s one of our drug dealers.”
Trouble isn’t usually hard to find in the 600 block of St. Andrews Place in Hollywood, known to residents and police as a street market for narcotics. But on Monday, for the second straight day, the drug traffic seemed to slow down, stemmed by a line of protest set up by the Guardian Angels’ patrol and neighborhood residents such as Morrin.
“We Are Taking Back the Block,” announced a sign hoisted at the corner of St. Andrews and Melrose Avenue, one block west of Western Avenue. “Gangs Out, Drugs Out,” said another.
The protest was the latest act in a neighborhood drama--and another twist to the saga of the Guardian Angels in Southern California. Three of the Guardian Angels, including founder Curtis Sliwa, were arrested Sunday.
Several St. Andrews residents said they were glad the Guardian Angels had responded to their pleas for help. The police have been ineffective in fighting drug traffic in the neighborhood, they said.
But Hollywood Division Capt. Lawrence Fetters said that St. Andrews and the adjoining five-block area has the top priority for drug enforcement in the division.
Since January, 363 narcotics arrests have been made in the area, he said. “The problem is that there are no substantial sentences for drug offenders. We can’t keep them off the street.”
St. Andrews residents tell of how the dealers had set up an elaborate network to conduct business, complete with lookouts, hand signals, secret drug caches and boys on bicycles acting as couriers.
The manager of two St. Andrews apartment buildings, Sandra Ferrer, said buyers sometimes arrive in Mercedes-Benzes and Jaguars; other times, junkies arrive on foot, make a purchase and shoot up in the back alley. “We find syringes and blood back there,” she said.
“I just won’t go out to my car if there’s a drug deal going on in my driveway,” said Mabel Wolzmuth.
More than 50 Guardian Angels arrived Sunday, and Sliwa and others took up positions in the middle of Melrose, holding signs and handing out flyers that read: “Warning to all drug dealers. Out of this neighborhood! Off this block! Or else. . . . " The turnout Monday was about 20.
Some pedestrians in the neighborhood said they had been “hassled” by the Angels. Some residents said the Angels threatened to beat up suspected dealers.
When officers ordered Sliwa and others out of the street, he refused. Sgt. Jim Lowry said officers on the scene told him that Sliwa had told officers to arrest him because “we need the publicity.”
“I would not even say that, even if it were true,” Sliwa said Monday. “If I said that, I should get 10 counts for being a bonehead.”
Sliwa and Scott McKeown, a leader of the Los Angeles chapter of the Guardian Angels, were freed after posting bail. The third Angel, Wayne Villafranco, was detained longer because of an outstanding warrant for $171 in traffic tickets, Sliwa said.
Critical of Police
Sliwa criticized police efforts in the neighborhood, joking about how residents know better than to “call 911 and wait an hour for police to get here from Winchell’s.”
“They’re supposed to be pro-police,” Fetters said. “I’m surprised their attitude is so poor. Gee, if we have to have officers arresting them for blocking traffic, then we’re not able to enforce the narcotics laws.”
Yolanda Macias, 15, said that while drug traffic may have slowed on the 600 block of St. Andrews on Sunday, the dealers were still in business on the 700 block, where she lives.
“When the cops and the TV stations were down there"--she pointed to the corner of Melrose-- “they were dealing up there,” she said, pointing to the opposite corner.