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Drug Dealers Lose in Pager Debacle

May 21, 1998 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Drug dealers may have been among the biggest losers when a satellite glitch silenced pagers across the country this week.

``That’s about the only positive thing I can think of so far that’s come out of this,″ police Lt. Anthony Alba said. ``Hopefully this will make their efforts more difficult and cause more of them to get caught.″

For the past decade or so, pushers have been using pagers to connect with customers.

Just how much the satellite problem slowed drug sales was not immediately clear.

But the trouble it has caused for drug dealers could help make up for the inconvenience the outage has created for some law enforcement officers. Dozens of pagers used by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department went blank when the Galaxy IV satellite rolled out of position on Tuesday.

``I know it’s impacting us, and if it’s impacting us it’s impacting them,″ said sheriff’s Lt. Art Ng of the narcotics division.

Pagers help street dealers evade police surveillance. A dealer with a pager doesn’t have to stay close to a specific telephone, which police can tap, or a particular location that police can watch. The readout on the beeper also gives the drug dealer the option of not returning a call placed from an unfamiliar number.

In fact, getting rid of the pager is part of drug rehab, said Clark Carr, president of Narconon International in Los Angeles.

``That’s one of the first things we take when they come in,″ he said.