Public Safety Commissioners Demand Action on WeHo’s Meth Dealers

Screenshots of Grindr users in and around West Hollywood
Screenshots of drug dealers in and around West Hollywood on Grindr

Members of West Hollywood’s Public Safety Commission last night pushed for action on the sale and use of methamphetamine in the city.

“I think it’s really important that you hear from us that this issue has really out of control,” said Estevan Montemayor, chair of the commission, in a conversation with Capt. Holly Perez, who heads the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. “As young gay man in this city, I’ve lived here for five years now, and every year I feel like it gets worse… It’s terrible to see acquaintances, friends, people I know of, harmed by this terrible drug.”

Commissioner Ben Coleman and Montemayor put the meth drug issue on the agenda after WEHOville published a story calling out Grindr, producer of the eponymous mobile phone app for gay men, for providing a platform for meth sales. Competing hookup apps take steps to block symbols and words that indicate someone is trying to sell a drug.

Montemayor praised Mayor Lauren Meister for pledging to set up a meeting with Joel Simkhai, the founder and CEO of Grindr, which is headquartered on the 14th floor of the Red Building at the Pacific Design Center. Meister told WEHOville that she hopes she and City Manager Paul Arevalo can meet with Simkhai next week. Councilmembers John D’Amico and John Duran, friends of Simkhai, have said they will discuss the issue with him.

Montemayor, who said his brother had been addicted to meth, said it also is important for West Hollywood to communicate with the gay community, which makes up 40% of the city’s population and a substantial percentage of its visitors, about the issue.

“I don’t think we want to start to sex patrol people on Grindr,” Montemayor said, alluding to concerns of some about law enforcement reading the personal messages between app users. “I think that would be quite dangerous. However I think we want to make it clear that the city wants to take care of our own, whether they live here or not. And that folks who are susceptible to this kind of danger are taken care of.”

Coleman said he wants to make sure that law enforcement uses social media tools such as Grindr to identify and arrest drug dealers. He also stressed that the focus should be on sellers of the dangerous drug and not its users.

Coleman said that in a conversation several years ago with narcotics detectives with the Sheriff’s Department he was surprised that they had never heard of Grindr, which is believed to be the post popular mobile app used by gay men for finding sexual and romantic partners. Grindr claims more than four million users in 193 countries.

Capt. Perez said she is working with the Sheriff’s Department’s narcotics squad on the issue and that the department’s traditional approach to making drug sales arrests makes it difficult to arrest dealers on mobile phone apps.

“You can’t really do a buy/bust,” she said, “because you have to be willing to buy right now. Our detectives don’t work that way. They have to set it up, get the money, get the approval to make the buy and make the bust. The way these apps work you contact the person at two or three in the morning and they want to make the sale right now.”

Perez said they are exploring more creative ways to address the meth sale issue. She said arrests for possession of meth more than doubled in the first six months of this year, going from 46 arrests in January to June 2015 to 105 from January to June 2016. Arrests of drug sellers went from five in the first six months of last year to nine in the same period this year.

Perez said drug possession arrests typically occur when a deputy pulls over someone for a traffic violation or investigates someone for erratic behavior. On occasion, she said, that person will reveal who sold them the drugs, and deputies will pursue that person.

“This is really important because it does reflect on West Hollywood,” said Commissioner Tory Berger, who noted that police in New York City arrested a meth dealer they discovered on Grindr. Berger also noted the recent arrest of the owner of, a classified advertising website that has become controversial for allowing posts advertising sex with underage boys and girls. Berger asked if someone could be arrested for facilitating the sale of illegal drugs online.

  1. The people who want meth at 3 am are the same people who earlier in the evening came to WeHo to go to the clubs. Drinks early on, drugs (for the hookups) later.
    Why do you think the “Log Cabin” has so many 12-Step meetings?
    The only way to kill the meth problem is to help the addicts on whose back we balance our city’s budget. We can’t kill the meth problem without killing Boystown.

  2. Hoping that random traffic stops might produce the name of a drug dealer is NOT a STRATEGY! What the hell?! Does the Sheriff’s dept have their heads up their asses?

  3. I have watched friends struggle with Meth addiction for 20 years. Do everyone a favor and arrest the buyers.

    1. Arrest the buyers? i love this idea, the problem is much bigger, i don’t think the sheriff station have the space to handle so many in our city.

  4. please let’s get real, Meth will always be a problem until our gay men realize that life is more then getting high, having sex getting drunk.
    too many of them start using meth to be cool, to fit in our gay lifestyle, this what we need to work, get those who “run” from life reason to live not die.

  5. I’d like to suggest that since meth and meth dealing/using on mobile apps or online are not traditional methods, that we step outside of the box, and stop relying on traditional buy and busts, and get with the current climate. Keeping up with trends, and the ever evolving ways of selling meth is the only way to save our gay brothers who are caught up in this whirlwind. I have been at this for nearly 15 years, and I watch how clever the dealers are, whether on craigslist, adam4adam, or apps. I watch and learn the jargon, which changes and evolves almost weekly it seems. It amazes me that law enforcement is not on top of this. I could go online at any given time and “score” under any fake name and profile I could create in minutes. Finding dealers online is so easy for anyone. Why not the sheriffs?.

  6. You can blame the voters who made meth possession a misdemeanor and attorneys like John Duran who keep defending the people arrested for possession by defaming the cops making the arrests. You reap what you sow.

  7. Busted! Lets keep up the pressure on this issue. This war needs as much energy and commitment as the fight for equal rights or the fight against hiv/aids.

    Why don’t we ask Council member John Duran, he got all the info we need to stop meth.
    as someone who live with HIV/AIDS and “X” METH user, it’s time to see what he is all about,
    Sex (grinder), Drugs and ….B.S.
    One thing is for sure, people keep saying we do so much to stop METH,
    a party on new year and gay pride weekend, get real people.

    time to talk the truth and the facts, time to remember that we have no voice, they only voices we got is those fake leaders that control our city and those people who keep kissing they a*s.
    yes, i may be the crazy one, but at least i never used drugs or drinks to make me happy.

    i wish we had more “crazy” people like me, people that wiling to stand for the sad truth of our city. they B.S. and the corruption, and never forget it start from the top leaders to those who live on our streets.

    So many amazing gay men keep losing everything to meth and few who lost the
    GIFT of LIFE.
    So start by going to our night clubs, stores, restaurants and stop the owners, the managers and they employees of those businesses from selling METH and more.
    Love. nir.

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