Several hundred anti-drug activists from local church groups Monday night heard Anaheim Mayor Fred Hunter pledge that his city would clamp down on drug dealers operating out of businesses or homes, hitting them with fines or "locking up" their property for up to a year.
Father John Lenihan of St. Boniface parish earlier told the crowd of about 300 Anaheim residents that a 1986 drug-abatement law gives police and city officials the power to "go after landlords who rent to drug dealers." But he said the state law was not being used to combat increasing drug activity in Anaheim.
Hunter, who was asked to meet with residents to explain what actions the city has taken since an April community forum on the issue, vowed to seek more enforcement. "I really think the drug-abatement law can work," he said at the parish meeting hall at Harbor Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue.
In April, the Orange County Congregation-Community Organizations, which includes members of 15 churches and synagogues in Anaheim, Santa Ana and Fullerton, appealed to Hunter and Santa Ana Mayor Daniel H. Young to take charge of creating comprehensive anti-drug programs in their respective cities.
Raquel Estrada, of the St. Boniface parish group, said a six-month research effort by the church group found that most cities in Orange County "did not have a comprehensive drug strategy involving enforcement, treatment and prevention."
Since the April meeting, the Anaheim City Council approved a resolution prepared by the church group declaring that a "drug epidemic" exists in the community.
Lenihan noted that the Santa Ana City Council and the Orange County Board of Supervisors also have adopted the group's comprehensive anti-drug resolution.
But members of Anaheim church groups wanted to know what action Hunter had been able to take since the April meeting. Some had complained that there still was no action being taken against drug dealers in their neighborhoods, and others said that money still was not being spent on more enforcement and protection in the troubled Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood near Disneyland.
Jeorjino Rendon of Anaheim held a young child in her arms and in a voice choked with emotion told the audience in Spanish, "Since 1982, I have lived very happily in my neighborhood. . . . Then the drug dealers came. . . .
"One day, my child found drugs outside and brought them back in the house. I am ready with addresses of dealers."
Leopoldo Gonzalez of Anaheim told the group that he had called the owner of his apartment building to complain about drug dealing in his building. "But the landlord does nothing. . . . The landlord tells me the drug dealers pay good rent."
Don Floriani of Anaheim told Hunter: "Last night, someone got shot near where I live. . . . This is more than a Jeffrey-Lynne problem. It is a problem in the whole city."
Hunter acknowledged that little action has yet occurred, but he added: "The police have been slow in responding to my requests. . . . I'm going to meet with the chief of police and the city attorney (today). I am a can-do guy. Let's do what the law says."
Earlier Monday, Hunter said in an interview that police suspect a number of Anaheim businesses and restaurants of being hotbeds of drug activity. And Sgt. Steve Rodig, head of the Anaheim Police Department's narcotics squad, said in a memo to Mayor Hunter: "Unlike cocaine rock houses in Los Angeles County, which are usually owned and operated as a family business, investigators in Orange County have found almost in all cases that local suspects are transients and after arrest abandon the location."
Hunter told the group that he would let them know in two weeks what progress he has made on seeking enforcement of the drug-abatement law and on gaining more funds for the Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Gilbert R. Saldana, a field representative for U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) said that the senator would work with Hunter to get The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to release $100,000 now earmarked only for building projects to help with drug enforcement and police protection in the Jeffrey-Lynne neighborhood.
After the 1 1/2-hour session ended, Hunter called the meeting productive.
"In a way, I can congratulate these people for bringing this to our attention and putting pressure on us."