More than 50 illegally installed pay phones on Pacific Boulevard will be replaced by 20 high-tech new ones under an agreement between the city and Pacific Bell.
They will be equipped with calling card fraud detectors and 800-watt night lights to help curtail crime involving pay phones. They will be installed at no expense to the city.
Authorities said pay phones are abused by hustlers who peddle long-distance calls from stolen calling card numbers to passersby. Twenty people were arrested in a police sweep in April in connection with pirated calls, and 14 of them were charged with felonies, police said.
"In just about three hours, police found out, they made about $12,000 worth of calls," said Councilman Raul R. Perez. "The owners of the phones would make commissions on the illegal calls."
The new phones, some equipped with video surveillance cameras, will be installed between Florence Avenue and Randolph Street, on and around the city's business and shopping district. Their locations will be safer and more accessible than current ones, authorities said.
Huntington Park Police Lt. Carl Heintz said because some of the current phones are in remote places along the main commercial strip, street robberies are common. The phones are also used to run illegal document rackets, he said.
In addition, a May survey by the Code Enforcement Division revealed that many existing pay phones did not work properly or did not comply with Public Utility Commission regulations.
The enforcement agency counted 74 illegally placed phones on sidewalks citywide. None of the phone companies had been issued permits to install pay phones in the city, said Henry Gray, the city's assistant director of community development.