In the wake of two fatal gang-related shootings in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Pacific Area late last month, community leaders in Venice say the incidents have reemphasized the need for adequate funding for gang intervention services in the local communities.
The Venice Neighborhood Council hosted an informational meeting Monday, October 6th, in response to the recent crimes, allowing residents to address their concerns to police and city officials.
Two alleged gang members were shot to death less than a week apart at the Mar Vista Gardens housing project in Del Rey and on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, in what police believe are unrelated gang-motivated crimes.
Braylon Williams, 22, was killed September 23rd as he was walking in an alley in Mar Vista Gardens, and Adam Pacheco, 31, was fatally shot following the popular Abbot Kinney Festival September 28th, when he was outside the Otheroom bar in the 1400 block of Abbot Kinney Boulevard, police said. LAPD Pacific Captain Joseph Hiltner has affirmed that the second homicide was not in retaliation for the first.
Police say the suspects involved have not been apprehended and they are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the shooters.
The suspect in the Mar Vista Gardens incident is described as a Hispanic man, 18 to 20 years old, of medium height and build and wearing a black sweatshirt. The Venice shooting suspect is described as a Hispanic man, 17 to 18 years old who fled in a vehicle described as a white Dodge Durango.
Police are encouraging anyone with additional information to contact LAPD Pacific detectives at (310) 482-6316. Hiltner stressed that tips can be provided anonymously through text messages, or by logging onto www .lapdonline.org/ and clicking on “Web Tips.”
COMMUNITY MEETING —Hiltner addressed the audience at the October 6th community meeting, along with City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, deputy mayor Jeff Carr of the Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, and Stephen Cheung of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office.
“We want to get the facts out there [Ö] and we need to make sure that violent acts like this never happen,” Neighborhood Council president Mike Newhouse said.
Rosendahl said he is still reminded of the fatal shooting of Venice High School student Agustin Contreras on the school campus two years ago. The councilman said that while Venice doesn’t experience the most gang crimes in the city, his 11th Council District is also impacted by the issue.
“We know that in our district, we also have the connecting reality of gangs,” Rosendahl told the audience.
Rosendahl also pointed to Villaraigosa’s establishment of gang reduction zones in the city and noted that Venice was not included.
“Our hope is intervention and prevention strategies,” he said.
Villaraigosa’s plan targets gang reduction services in sections of the city that are considered the most violent, areas known as Gang Reduction and Youth Development zones. The plan expands the number of Gang Reduction and Youth Development zones from eight to 12. Each of the zones is slated to receive at least $1 million for prevention services and another $500,000 for intervention.
The 12 zones, areas such as Baldwin Village, Cypress Park and Watts, have experienced four times as much gang crime as the other areas of the city combined, a spokesman for the mayor has said. However, the zones do not cover areas that have suffered from gang crime but are not considered to be the most violent, and this has concerned organizations in communities such as Venice.
Rosendahl stressed that he was disappointed that none of the neighborhoods in the 11th District were targeted for Gang Reduction zone funding, as the district also deals with gang issues not only in Venice, but Mar Vista and Del Rey.
“I’m not happy that we did not get included in the 12 (gang reduction) zones,” the councilman said. “I fought for us to be included as a gang zone.”
The spokesman for the mayor has said the city budget sets aside $2.4 million for general prevention and intervention services in communities not covered by the zones, and organizations will have an opportunity to apply for some funding.
“I will do everything in my power to see that we get some of that money,” Rosendahl said.
One local gang intervention organization, Venice 2000, which has had success in steering youths away from gangs, is also troubled by the potential loss of funding under the zones. The Venice Neighborhood Council sent a letter to the mayor in April, expressing the need to continue funding for such programs.
“I’m upset that Venice was overlooked,” said Venice 2000 executive director and Neighborhood Council member Stan Muhammad at the October 6th meeting.
Muhammad referred to the incidents of gang violence that Venice suffered 15 years ago and noted that the situation has improved because of the work by Venice 2000.
The organization needs adequate funding to maintain its level of services and avoid any layoffs, he said.
“Right now, all we can do is hope that the mayor and City Council will do the right thing,” Muhammad said.