Pleased with the results of having a larger police presence along the Venice Beach Boardwalk during the summer, community residents are hoping to maintain beefed up patrols at the highly popular area later into the year.
At the beginning of the summer months in recent years, the Los Angeles Police Department has boosted patrols on Ocean Front Walk in Venice to better manage increased activity and crowds that come to what is described as the second largest tourist destination in Southern California. Police say the step up in officers is intended to create a more visible presence and address concerns associated with more crowds on the beach.
Capt. James West of the LAPD Pacific division said the regular staffing for the non-summer months consists of eight officers and one sergeant, but during the summer, patrol is increased to more than 30 officers. The additional officers typically come from other stations, and following Labor Day, they are reassigned from Venice to their regular patrol, he said.
Members of the Venice Neighborhood Council have addressed the drop-off in officers, saying that at summer’s peak 32 officers were on patrol at the beach, but after Labor Day, the number dipped to eight. In a letter to City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and LAPD Pacific Capt. Joseph Hiltner, council members noted that while the reduction is not much more significant than in previous years, they would like the department to reconsider the decision.
“Even though Labor Day has passed, September and most of October are still ‘summer-like’ traffic months for Venice Beach, which remains the number-one tourist attraction in Los Angeles, even outside of the summer months,” the council wrote.
Council member Nick Karno explained that as a heavy tourist area, the boardwalk experiences a variety of incidents including graffiti vandalism, drug activity, thefts and auto burglaries, and it needs to have adequate patrol. The boardwalk was also the site of a homicide last year, when the body of Nathan Alan Morgan was found buried in the sand. The City Council recently approved a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.
“It’s one of the areas of Venice that always needs patrolling,” Karno said.
West noted that the reduction in officers is not any different than in previous years, and with the Pacific division experiencing some of the lowest crime rates in the city, the department command must assign any additional officers to parts of the city that have more serious crimes. The department understands the concerns of Venice residents on the need for more officers but believes Pacific is properly staffed based on the type of crimes occurring, West said.
“The numbers we have are what we believe are adequate,” he said.
Neighborhood Council members credited the police force for helping to drop crime dramatically over the past 15 years and say they appreciate the LAPD efforts, but added that losing more officers could impact those improvements.
“Everybody recognizes and appreciates the work LAPD has done in bringing crime stats down as a whole, but it’s another thing when you’re taking away the very tools that brought those reductions,” Karno said.
Neighborhood Council President Mike Newhouse added, “LAPD has been really responsive in giving us more officers during those heavy tourist summer months. Venice has become a much safer place and a lot of that is because there’s been an extra police presence.”
Newhouse said the council is hoping that LAPD will reconsider keeping an increase in officers at the beach at least through the end of October, a time which can still draw large crowds.
Rosendahl said he supports the council’s call for more officers but explained that other parts of the city have higher patrols because “violent crime takes precedence.” While the 11th District may face more police staffing challenges compared to other areas, Rosendahl said he will continue to be an advocate for his constituents on this issue.