“We Need More Cops In Venice,” Councilmember Bonin Pens Letter to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck

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January 9, 2015

Dear Chief Beck:

I write today to ask once again for your help in addressing the escalating and unacceptable crime problem in Venice. I echo the sentiments of Venice residents and renew my call for you to assign significantly more dedicated LAPD resources to the Venice area.

More than a year ago, I spoke before you when the Los Angeles Police Commission visited West LA, warning of a growing criminal element and a rising climate of fear in Venice. In December 2013, I wrote you a letter urging more significant and focused attention to crime in the Venice Beach area. Over the past several months, we have met in my office and toured Venice Beach after dark. Sadly, despite the best efforts of many of the amazing women and men of LAPD and especially of the Pacific Area Community Police Station, public safety in Venice has gotten noticeably worse.

In recent months, there have been a rash of crimes and increasingly brazen home invasions. Residents and business owners report that loud, aggressive and often threatening people are regularly sitting near residential entryways, shouting beneath people’s windows, urinating and defecating in people’s carports.  Residents of and visitors to Venice Beach, of beach-adjacent walk streets, of the neighborhoods near Third Avenue, and in the area west of the intersection of Venice Way and Venice Boulevard routinely report being threatened and intimidated.

This has created a frightening environment. Tourists are increasingly distressed and scared by Venice Beach. I have attached a collection of online tourist reviews of Venice Beach, compiled by a Venice resident into a report titled after a quote from a review: “Honey don’t worry… keep peddling, it’ll just be a little longer and we’ll be out of here.” The volume is a frightening summary of how visitors to Los Angeles view Venice Beach:  “I would not recommend going and keep your kids away!” or “I would not want to go there after dark.” Unfortunately, this sentiment is not just shared by visitors – it has been echoed by residents and landlords have reported that tenants have asked to break lease agreements because they do not feel safe in their own homes.

The perpetrators are largely transients from out of town, who eschew the opportunity to sleep at the emergency winter shelter, and who are service resistant.  This has also caused a frightening dynamic for homeless people in genuine need. People who use the winter shelter program and other services in the Venice area report being threatened, intimidated, and physically harassed by this aggressive transient population. The situation is out of control, and getting worse.  Venice needs more cops.

Let me be clear – I am not asking the LAPD to criminalize homelessness, or to violate the legal restrictions mandated by Jones or Lavan. But we cannot ignore or downplay criminal activity simply because the perpetrators are transients, blending in with the genuinely needy homeless population, passing through and setting up semi-permanent camps in residential areas. We cannot continue to tolerate a situation that invites and welcomes a criminal element from other parts of the city and country.  We clearly need to provide housing and social services to get those in need off the street.  And we need tough, constant enforcement and prosecution of criminal behavior.

Through smart enforcement policies and dedicated police resources, similar problems in Hollywood have been solved. I understand, from the community and from LAPD personnel, that a combination of private security hired by the Hollywood BID and dedicated LAPD resources assigned to the Hollywood Entertainment District, have transformed the neighborhood over the past decade.

I am not asking LAPD to address this alone.  A year ago, I formed an interagency Venice Beach Public Safety Task Force, bringing resources from Recreation & Parks, Public Works, City Attorney, and the Mayor’s Office to join LAPD in focusing on the problem.  At the same time, merchants in Venice are well on their way to forming a Business Improvement District to help do their part.  And this week, I convened a meeting of Venice Forward, a new collaborative effort of social service groups, government agencies, businesses, and community members. The purpose of the new joint effort is to better coordinate social services, secure funding for homeless programs, build more affordable housing, and ultimately end homelessness in Venice.  These efforts need to be matched by an LAPD presence that is regular, constant, and dedicated specifically to our problem areas.

In the past few days, more than 200 residents have signed a petition asking you to address this problem and give Venice the type of focused attention and dedicated resources given to Hollywood. I echo and repeat that request, and ask you to act before the situation gets worse.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Regards,

Mikes Sig.jpg

MIKE BONIN
Councilmember, 11th District

cc: Mayor Eric Garcetti
Steve Soboroff, Los Angeles Police Commission
Venice Neighborhood Council

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