Chief Moore has deployed 10 more officers and new enforcement strategies near the beach
By Gary Walker
In late October, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore promised a raucous audience at a town hall about homelessness in Venice that he would soon return for an in-depth discussion of local crime and try to station more patrol officers on the Venice Boardwalk.
Venice now has 10 additional police officers assigned to the boardwalk, Moore announced to an attentive audience of more than 150 people last Thursday during a town hall meeting at Westminster Avenue Elementary School.
“We’re here to listen and to work with you on solutions for the issues that you care about in a very challenging area to do police work,” said Moore, who took charge of the LAPD in June.
LAPD Capt. James Setzer, the commander of the Pacific Division, credited the combination of the additional officers and several new enforcement strategies implemented by former Pacific Division Patrol Capt. James Roberts (promoted to a new assignment last week) for a reduction in crime along the boardwalk in the last month.
One strategy has been to enforce the overnight curfew on Venice Beach and the boardwalk, asking people to remove tents from the area. During the meeting, police showed a map of 81 encampments they had identified near the beach in October.
Due to a rise in the number of illegal bicycle “chop shops” in the vicinity of the boardwalk, these strategies included the creation of a local task force dedicated to identifying stolen bicycles and breaking up bike theft rings. Of the 359 thefts reported on or near the beach area this year, 79 were stolen bicycles.
“We’re putting a special emphasis on stolen bicycles. We’re compiling all of the reports that we have of stolen bicycles and the tips that we get about chop shops, and we’re going after them,” said Lt. Randy Goddard, commanding officer of the Pacific Detective Division.
Despite the 10 new officers, some residents insisted Venice should have even more, considering the taxes resulting from the neighborhood’s high property values and the escalating rents that some businesses pay as the reason for additional personnel.
Moore said he took the new officers from other parts of the city, making Venice now one of the best-patrolled communities of Los Angeles.
“We’ve allocated more funds for Venice than we have for many other parts of the city. Crime rates here are lower than in other parts of the city,” Moore told the audience.
Setzer cited a 3% dip in crime along and in the vicinity of Ocean Front Walk and Pacific Avenue over the past month. But in the same area, he acknowledged, violent crime is up 22% so far this year.
“The crime areas where they’re up are sexual assaults, robberies, aggravated assaults and thefts. We’ve had 19 sexual assaults to date, a 70% increase — 17% [among] acquaintances; six cases [31.5%] where transients were involved but those assaults came against another homeless person,” Setzer reported. “So we’ve had criminal homeless preying on the helpless homeless.”
There have been 12 robberies, an uptick of 12%, and 111 aggravated assaults, a 21% increase. Of those aggravated assaults, 71 happened on the boardwalk, 49 were transient-related, 28 were determined to be homeless-on-homeless violence.
Crime dipped this month in the Oakwood neighborhood and surrounding east of Lincoln Boulevard and west of Abbot Kinney Boulevard, but violent crime is up 21% overall for the year. That includes 12 robberies and 48 aggravated assaults: “Again, we had the criminal homeless preying on the helpless homeless,” said Setzer. There have been 153 thefts reported in the area, including 50 stolen bicycles, he said.
“That’s a pretty realistic picture of what we’re facing in the Venice community,” he concluded.
A group of residents challenged some of the statistics as possible undercounts despite that assertion.
“There was someone killed in front of our store recently, and I want to know why your [homicide] numbers don’t reflect that,” said Shelle Moeller, who with her husband Klaus owns the Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream shop on Ocean Front Walk.
Setzer answered that when someone dies, police have to determine if the cause of death was by suicide, an accidental death or murder, and the latter is not always the case.
Overall, those who attended the town hall seemed happy that the LAPD’s high command had taken the time to come to Venice.
Alex Poe, who lives near on a walk street near the beach, said he hopes police do more on the boardwalk, including continuing to enforce the boardwalk curfew.
“I appreciate that the situation on the boardwalk is complicated, and I’m encouraged that they’re listening,” Poe said.
Setzer also announced a new email address that residents can use to air grievances and report crimes: