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State Seizes Drug Den Near School in North Hollywood

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A notorious North Hollywood drug den located less than a block from a junior high school was seized Tuesday by authorities as part of a state-funded program aimed at helping neighborhoods fight blight and crime.

“If you own a piece of property and you’re dealing drugs, you could lose the whole thing and that’s the lesson we have here today,” City Atty. James K. Hahn said at a news conference in front of the house.

Federal marshals, Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Los Angeles police officers served Caroline Beatty, 47, who authorities said owned the house, with a seizure warrant for the home at 7034 Ethel Ave. Tuesday morning.

Police said Beatty stored, used and sold cocaine at the three-bedroom house, which is less than a block from James Madison Junior High School in an otherwise quiet neighborhood of single-family residences. In response to numerous complaints from neighbors, police conducted undercover searches and investigations of activity at the house that led to arrests on six different occasions, Los Angeles Police Lt. Rick Smith said.

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“This particular location had developed a reputation as a crash pad,” Smith said. Users would go there to buy crack and rock cocaine and often stayed there to smoke it and to sleep.

Beatty had been arrested twice in the past 18 months and served 90 days in jail, but the drug activity continued, Smith said.

“Not only was the drug trafficking at this house a major nuisance for the surrounding neighborhood, but James Madison Junior High School is located less than a block away and there are children up and down the street before and after school and during the noontime,” Hahn said.

Tuesday’s seizure marks the fourth such action carried out in Los Angeles by FALCON (Focused Attack Linking Community Organizations and Neighborhoods), a state-funded program that attacks crime and blight by coordinating the efforts of local, state and federal agencies, as well as community groups, Hahn said.

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Eleven days ago, a house was seized in South Los Angeles and a Van Nuys house at 10944 Columbus Ave. was seized in January. A fourth house, in the Wilshire district of the city, was taken over by authorities in February.

“It’s a real severe blow to anyone who loses their house,” said Cmdr. Martin Pomeroy, who heads the Los Angeles Police Department’s Narcotics Group. Residents of the North Hollywood neighborhood said they were relieved by the government takeover.

“They should take it,” said Jose Chavarria, who lives across the street.

Chavarria said police raids of the location had done nothing to stop the activity.

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“I feel great” about the seizure, said one woman who asked not to be identified. “I feel that my children can now play out front and not worry.”

Neighbors wrote down license plate numbers of the cars driven by visitors to the house and passed the information on to police. Getting the state to seize the house “was not an overnight process,” the woman said of the seizure.

Beatty has a right to appeal the loss of her house to a federal judge. If she does not do so within 60 days, the property will be put up for sale. The proceeds from a sale would go to law enforcement agencies, officials said. The house is valued at $270,000 but needs repairs.

Beatty was in the house during the news conference but refused to comment. She will be allowed to live there as a tenant until the forfeiture process is completed.

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