Despite success in arresting vandals, pickpockets, and sexual predators, two of the Los Angeles Police Department’s undercover units are being disbanded to put more cops on the streets.
The six-officer pickpocket unit has arrested about 100 thieves and 170 sexual predators since its inception three years ago, LAPD officials said. The 11-member Graffiti Habitual Offenders Suppression Team (GHOST), which was started in 1989, made more than 500 graffiti-related arrests last year.
But despite these undercover transit officers' results and LAPD Chief William Bratton’s declared war on graffiti and policy to crack down on petty offenses, the units’ members will be reassigned to regular patrol duties.
“As much as we intended to keep them intact, right now we need to put them in the street,” says Assistant Chief Sharon Papa. “When violent crimes start spiking and we become the murder capital of the nation, you decide: ‘Let’s saturate the streets with as many officers as possible.’ It was a judgment call.”
Papa says Bratton made the decision. But he said the units might become active again in a few months if the department is able to recruit more officers and violent crime declines.