South Central LA Denounces Checkpoints, Should Santa Ana Follow Suit?


The South Central Neighborhood Council has adopted a critical resolution calling for an end to car confiscations at sobriety check points in their communities. Unanimously passed yesterday, the thrust of the text is aimed the problematic manner is which such check points impound many more vehicles from unlicensed drivers (read: undocumented immigrants) than actual drunk drivers.

Three important “Whereas” portions of the resolution spell out the injustice inherent in this: “WHEREAS, the constant impounding of vehicles through sobriety checkpoints disproportionately targets low income communities such as the South Central area; and WHEREAS, the largest Spanish newspaper in the United States, La Opinion, has reported about the disproportionate use of checkpoints in South Central Los Angeles; and WHEREAS, La Opinion reported that $40 million dollar revenue generated by these checkpoints in 2009”

The SCNC is not simply denouncing the practice, but offering a solution by calling on the adoption of an Oakland policy stating, “This resolution calls on the Los Angeles City Council to adopt the Oakland City Policy of car confiscations which allows police to only tow a vehicle of an unlicensed driver after an opportunity has been granted to allow the unlicensed driver to relinquish the vehicle to a licensed driver already on scene or secure his or her vehicle on scene after a waiver has been signed.”

A press release on the SCNC’s resolution, which if picked up by three neighborhood councils goes straight to the Los Angeles City Council, further reads:

Stealing cars from Immigrants has become a multimillion dollar industry that is now being used to alleviate the city’s budget deficit. In 2009, the state of California shamefully profited $40 million from these checkpoints. This is being done at the expense of the undocumented community and is particularly shameful during this holiday season.

Under the pretext of looking for drunk drivers, the LAPD and Sherriff’s Departments are specifically racially profiling Latinos by strategically placing “Sobriety” checkpoints in predominantly Latino communities. These include “Sobriety” checkpoints on Tuesday mornings in strictly residential neighborhoods. These are obviously traps to catch unlicensed drivers. Both of those departments acknowledge that the GREAT majority of the cars impounded are NOT from drunk drivers but from unlicensed drivers; most of whom are undocumented.

Because Mayor Villaraigosa has publicly stated his opposition to the racial profiling that is taking place in Arizona, we call on him and the City Council to end this same type of racial profiling and attacks on immigrants here in Los Angeles.

Similarly, the practice of impounding vehicles of unlicensed drivers through sobriety checkpoints occurs in Santa Ana. A great many points of the SCNC resolution apply there as well. Research into this issue has been independently conducted by the Orange Juice blog and readers can search the archives for posts by former blogger Art Pedroza here. Just type in “checkpoint” and read many of his informative posts. The OC Register Watchdog also provided helpful data earlier this year, including this glaring juxtaposition:

  • For every one drunk driving arrest that the Santa Ana Police Department makes, it impounds 4.5 vehicles.
  • For every one drunk driving arrest that the Huntington Beach Police Department makes, it impounds only one vehicle.

Their collected stats from OC police departments showed that for Santa Ana there was 4.5 impounds per DUI arrest. 12 checkpoints conducted, 112 checkpoint DUI arrests, and 504 checkpoint impounds. An overwhelming 79% of “Hispanics” were affected by all of the above. Like Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor Miguel Pulido has also declared his opposition to Arizona’s racial profiling attempt in the form of a resolution denouncing SB 1070. Given that and given the statistics/practices of the SAPD’s own checkpoints (and where they do and don’t conduct them) a similar call to see if the adoption of an Oakland-style policy is applicable and appropriate should be discussed.

About Gabriel San Roman