A marketplace for shoplifted goods, a high concentration of drug dealers and a general tolerance of open air drug use have put MacArthur Park at the epicenter of LA's fentanyl epidemic

I spent five months investigating the crisis as a 2023 Reporting Health Fellow with the USC Center for Health Journalism.

I discovered that many unhoused people make money to buy fentanyl by selling shoplifted goods to street vendors around the park. This not-so-underground market is fueling a deadly and all-consuming addiction, which is taking a heavy toll on both the people who use fentanyl and the community forced to adapt to life around it.

City Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez said the investigation "reinvigorated her fight" to bring help to the area. Hernandez and Mayor Karen Bass vowed to take action to address LA's deadly fentanyl crisis. 

The investigation

Fentanyl addiction fuels underground shoplifting economy in LA’s MacArthur Park

For someone with no phone, no home, no job and no more possessions than can fit into a backpack, this is no easy task. So Elliot, like many others battling addiction, makes money for fentanyl by selling shoplifted goods to street vendors around MacArthur Park.

The Southern California News Group interviewed Elliot, dozens of other people who use fentanyl, business owners, residents, LAPD personnel, homeless outreach workers, and medical professionals over several months, discovering how the inte

My fight with fentanyl: Stories from 3 people battling addiction

They are among the many people bound by addiction to MacArthur Park, the sluggishly beating heart of Los Angeles’s fentanyl epidemic.

In any given week, hundreds of people come to the neighborhood to purchase and use fentanyl, a synthetic opioid responsible for 1,504 fatal overdoses in Los Angeles County in 2021, according to the most-recent available data from the county’s Department of Public Health.

For every person killed by fentanyl, many more are living with it. And those who are addicte

In LA’s fentanyl epidemic, MacArthur Park community bears the heavy burden

A local shopkeeper hoses down his front stoop, washing away the layer of debris that accumulated overnight.

As water strikes the already hot asphalt, steam rises and mingles with clouds of smoke coming from a group of people slumped on Alvarado Street. A mother shuttles her two young children past the huddle, weaving through dozens of vendors to reach the playground.

The majority Latino, working-class community has adapted to life around one of the largest fentanyl markets in Los Angeles — but

How can LA combat its fentanyl crisis? MacArthur Park offers clues

People pass out with a burned piece of tin foil in one hand and a butane torch lighter in the other. Those who are awake often hunch over to cope with the bone-deep aches of withdrawals.

But a closer look also shows seeds of hope.

There are grassroots efforts working to connect people who use fentanyl with help. There’s a passionate young councilmember trying to launch an overdose prevention team and a harm reduction center offering resources to people who use drugs. There are public health pr

The Impact: Interview on CBS LA