Hoping to get an idea of residents’ perceptions of safety in the community, the Venice Neighborhood Council simply posed the question to stakeholders, “Do you feel safe in Venice?”

With dozens of community members in attendance at a town hall meeting on safety issues Thursday, June 5th, a majority of the audience members indicated that they do feel safe living in Venice.

The poll results can be viewed as encouraging news for Venice Neighborhood Council members, as the community has had its share of violent incidents occur over the years. Earlier this year, a 25-year-old man was found assaulted to death in the sand near the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

The Neighborhood Council organized the town hall meeting to address various issues related to safety and allow community members to express their concerns.

“We want Venice stakeholders to talk about their perceptions of public safety,” town hall producer Ivan Spiegel said prior to the event.

Representatives of the Los Angeles Police and Fire Departments and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Office were on hand at the town hall to answer questions from the audience regarding safety. Police note that local communities have seen safety improvements, as Part I, or violent crimes, have dropped nine percent so far this year and five percent last year for the LAPD Pacific Division, said senior lead officer Robin Richards.

“On the whole, we are still very safe,” Richards said, referring to the crime reduction.

But while the Pacific Division has experienced a drop in violent crime, incidents of property crime have increased in the area, Richards said.

“The biggest crime is still property crime,” he said.

In response to concerns of residents regarding a spike in crime near Ocean Front Walk, LAPD Pacific boosted patrol near the Boardwalk earlier than the typical Memorial Day schedule this year and will continue having additional officers there through Labor Day.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl was also in attendance at the town hall to discuss public safety issues and said most of the audience members seemed to feel secure about living in Venice.

“The general sense is that the overall feeling in Venice is very positive,” the councilman said. “The good thing is that it was a healthy discussion of a cross section of community people who were interested in talking about safety.”

Rosendahl added that he urged the residents to form Neighborhood Watch programs, which he calls the “first line of defense.”

Neighborhood Council members said they were also pleased to see a cross-section of the community represented at the town hall event.

“It went very well. There were a lot of different neighborhoods represented,” said Neighborhood Council president Mike Newhouse, who served as a panelist.

As residents of Venice, Neighborhood Council members said they continue to feel secure in their homes and get a sense that many fellow residents do as well.

“I’ve always felt safe and I continue to feel safer and safer,” said Newhouse, a 13-year resident.

Stewart Oscars, council Safety Committee co-chair, said a main reason he feels secure is that “I know my neighbors,” and they have a Neighborhood Watch program in effect.

Some residents at the meeting referred to a law enforcement action targeting drug crimes in the Oakwood area earlier this year, saying that they disapproved of the tactics used with police forcing their way into homes, but acknowledged that safety has improved in the neighborhood.

“Venice is a lot better than where it was and we need to build on that reality to make it even safer,” said Safety Committee co-chair Stan Muhammad.

While a majority of audience members expressed feelings of safety, not everyone was as content. Some talked about incidents that continue to occur near the Boardwalk and the bus stop by Windward Avenue.

Resident Scott Forrest, who lives close to the Boardwalk, said he doesn’t feel completely safe in the neighborhood but he’s noticed a major decrease in activities since he began taking action. Forrest has helped get increased lighting in the area, get trash bins locked and put together a contact list of service agencies for the community.

“I truly don’t feel safe yet, but I do feel proactive,” he said.

Muhammad encourages residents who are concerned about safety to get involved with his safety committee, which works to address the issues at a grass-roots level.

The next Safety Committee meeting is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 19th, at the Vera Davis Center, 610 California Ave.