'You can walk outside. It's incredible.'

City officials were outraged. Within walking distance of City Hall and Los Angeles' bustling "new" downtown, cocaine dealers had swarmed in, selling crack, a cheap derivative of cocaine, for a few dollars a "rock" along a seedy stretch of Spring Street, particularly between 3rd and 7th streets.

The trafficking hub, law enforcement officials charged, was the Alexandria Hotel, a one-time showplace at 5th and Spring, where guests once ranged from U.S. Presidents to Hollywood celebrities but which in later years had fallen into disrepute.

At a news conference just over a year ago, in front of the Los Angeles Theatre Center across the street from the Alexandria, Mayor Tom Bradley and City Atty. James K. Hahn declared that the hotel's owners would have to clean out the drug traffickers and users who operated there or shut down.

Now veteran narcotics Detective Cleon Jones said conditions inside the hotel "appear to be better."

More Foot Patrols

On Spring Street, however, Jones said that despite more narcotics detectives on the street, "we still have the major (crack) problem. . . . We'll shut down one area and it'll spring up in another area. It (narcotics trafficking) goes on basically all day long and most of the night."

A reporter revisiting the corridor noticed more foot patrol officers than a year ago.

The result, for example, in notorious "Crack Alley"--a trash-strewn walkway between 6th and 7th streets linking Broadway and Spring Street--is that "the selling (of narcotics in the alley) is about gone," said Ronald Rubacher, an officer on patrol there.

Moreover, the higher police visibility is restoring confidence in the once-bustling financial center, police officials said.

'It's Incredible'

"You can walk outside," said Ray Post, assistant manager of the Premiere Towers condominium complex near 6th and Spring streets. "It's incredible."

Capt. Jerry Conner, commanding officer of the Central Area Division, which has jurisdiction over the Spring Street corridor, declined to disclose how many more officers are walking a beat.

"There has been an increase," is all Conner would say. "And they (police) will even be more visible as needed in the future. We want to get back to the way Spring Street used to look when it was (Los Angeles') financial district."

As for the Alexandria, Martin Yacoobian Jr., who manages the 512-room hotel for his parents, said drug dealers and users have been booted out. Now, he said, "it's perfect, absolutely trouble-free. A lot of senior citizens have moved back."

As for the continuing crack problem outside the hotel's doors, Yacoobian said, "I can't sit there with a baseball bat and gun and keep the streets clean."

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