Today at the behest of City Councilman Mike Bonin, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck paid a rare visit to the Venice Beach Boardwalk area to hear from residents and business owners about the state of squalor and the lack of safety along the boardwalk. After taking a quick minute to be photographed with the LAPD Venice Beach detail, a crowd of French tourists literally rushed in and bombed the photo. It was actually pretty funny and lightened the mood if for but a moment. As the group began their walk from the LAPD substation over to the main boardwalk, snake-charmer and boardwalk performer Solomon began screaming about brutality and brought us right back to the reality and state of weirdness and fear that has become the status-quo in Venice Beach.
The primary concern was the “trash-campments”. Large hoards of literally everything piled onto the grassy knolls along the boardwalk where the homeless keep their “belongings”, which often include entire sectional sofas, broken 50 inch large screen TV’s and king mattresses & box springs, recliners, etc. The City of LA struggles to balance the quality of life issues for the residents with the laws that allow the homeless to keep personal belongings on the street. Issue #2 was the violence. Nobody seems interested in the regurgitated “crime is down” statistics that are usually tossed out when the subject of violent crime is brought up. If you live here, all you need to do is walk down the boardwalk or through Oakwood / Abbot Kinney in broad daylight and you will easily understand that it doesn’t feel safe. Nighttime is without question scary. As we all stood talking, local gang members, drug dealers and criminal transients just hung around like they were staring into a fishbowl.
Where the plea was for more officers, the pushback was that these are issues that you can’t “arrest your way out of”. Heard it before. We get it… but there is no doubt we are spread thin on police resources and just need more cops. Response: So does every other neighborhood in LA…. so push politicians to approve budgets, blah blah blah. Meanwhile in the background of this conversation, police tape was going up as a suspicious package was identified and a perimeter was being set up. In the distance, amber lights from an ambulance, a man had just beat someone and sent them to the hospital. Just another night at Venice Beach. In the end, the most salient solution that was offered up was the idea that the residents and business owners need to work together to create solutions to help solve these problems – like proposing less “comfortable” areas for people to encamp… etc. ( on City property ).
The residents and business owners that had the opportunity to speak with the Councilman and Chief Beck were clearly fatigued. The City of LA is as frustrated as they are. Semantics aside, more police officers would help the sorely stretched thin resources that we have. We should know shortly if the safety of our residents, local businesses and the millions of tourists that visit our Beach each year are worth the investment of some additional LAPD resources. With the complexity of the legal issues associated with solving the social issues… it wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Thanks for the visit Chief Beck. We aren’t asking for a miracle. Hollywood had a transient murder a girl on Hollywood Blvd because she didn’t give him a dollar. They have a detail of 50+ permanent officers assigned to Hollywood Blvd now. We had a transient go on a rampage with a car and kill a tourist and injure dozens of others that same year. We got nothing. In fact, we have less officers than we had a year ago. We aren’t asking for a commitment forever. We just need focused additional resources and a beach team that doesn’t revolve supervisors every DP until we can get a BID in place and work with the Council office to make the situation stable.