Satanic graffiti and snack bar break-in prompt sweep of encampments in nearby wetlands
By Gary Walker
Leaving torn team banners, piles of trash and satanic symbols behind them, vandals broke into the snack bar and restrooms of the Culver-Marina Little League Baseball field in Del Rey over the weekend, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage and prompting a sweep of nearby homeless encampments.
Los Angeles police officers arrested two men with outstanding warrants and detained several others on Monday during the sweep of several encampments in the portion of the Ballona Wetlands near the baseball field.
As of Tuesday, however, police had not made arrests in connection with the vandalism and break-ins, LAPD Sgt. Kenneth Price said.
Sheriff’s deputies and a K-9 unit joined police in scouring the wetlands east of Lincoln Boulevard between Ballona Creek and Culver Boulevard, LAPD officer Jane Kim said.
“Officers did a sweep of the area and we believe that some of those who were detained live in the encampments,” Price said.
Damage to the snack bar, discovered by a parent on Saturday, included spray-painted graffiti of a pentagram and the word “Satan” spelled backwards.
The vandals also tore down team banners and stuffed them into restroom toilets. Baseball bats, gloves and a pitching machine were taken from a storage room, Culver-Marina Little League Baseball Vice President Matthew Wind said.
“It’s devastating,” said Alex Garcia, a Little League parent who does administrative work for the league. “My daughter won one of those banners that were found in the bathroom. She asked me, ‘Mom, why would they do that?’ I didn’t know what to tell her. She’s heartbroken.”
Garcia said break-ins at the baseball field are a common occurrence.
“We go through this every year, but it’s never been this bad,” she said.
Wind complained that nearby homeless encampments have long impacted conditions at the ball field. On Monday Wind discovered a man who appeared to be living in the field’s score box and fled into the wetlands when confronted, he said.
“I’m enraged about this,” Wind said. “This is an ongoing problem out here. During the season, we find syringes in the dugout, empty canisters from medical marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.”
Wind totaled the stolen equipment and property damage as a $15,000 to $20,000 loss, “but that’s an early estimate because we don’t know everything that was taken,” he said.
On Tuesday, the remains of numerous homeless encampments were visible in wetland areas not far from the outskirts of the baseball field.
In one area, occupants had built a raised wooden sleeping structure covered by a cloth sunshade.
In another, scattered clothing and debris included a duffel bag that contained a cache of prescription drugs used to treat HIV, herpes and high cholesterol.
While no one has been arrested in connection with this weekend’s burglary and vandalism, Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station deputies have discovered stolen property and made several arrests in the wetlands over the past few months.
The California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, responsible for overseeing the state-owned Ballona Wetlands, has been locating and removing homeless encampments throughout the wetlands over the past several months.
During a July 30 cleanup, Fish and Wildlife land manager Richard Brody and a team from the Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority filled more than 300 bags of trash with debris from the remains of several encampments west of Lincoln Boulevard.
“There are old, entrenched encampments in there that we have to clean up. In many of them we find rotting, hazardous waste,” Brody said. “We’ve been able to clean up some of the major messes [in several areas]. Now it’s just a matter of keeping an eye on the new messes.”
Before removing an encampment, Fish and Wildlife works with Sheriff’s deputies to notify people found living in the wetlands that they must abandon the area, Brody said.
Garcia, rather than be discouraged, said this weekend’s vandalism has redoubled her commitment to Culver-Marina Little League.
“This is when the community can come together and try to rebuild,” she said. “My kids have been a part of this for years, so we’re going to stick together on this no matter what.”