16.5% drop outpaces 7.2% overall violent crime reduction in LAPD Pacific Division patrol area
By Gary Walker
A dramatic decline in robberies drove a 16.5% reduction of violent crime on Venice Beach during the first 7½ months of the year, according to statistics reported by LAPD Pacific Division commanding officer Capt. Dominic Choi.
A total of 86 violent crimes occurred west of Pacific Avenue in Venice between Jan. 1 and Aug. 12, compared to 103 during the same period last year. That includes a nearly 48% decrease in robberies west of Pacific, with 22 robberies reported this year versus 42 during the same time frame in 2016.
“I think that’s pretty significant,” Choi said during an interview at the Pacific Community Police Station on Culver Boulevard. “There’s been a lot of focus and effort to impact crime in the area.”
Meanwhile, violent crime simultaneously fell by 7.2% throughout the Pacific Division patrol area, which includes Westchester, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Playa Vista, Playa del Rey and the rest of Venice.
Two years ago violent crime was on the rise in and around Venice Beach. This time the only category of violent felony to increase over the prior year is aggravated assaults, which include incidents of domestic violence and criminal threats while brandishing a weapon, up from 57 last year to 62. There were four rapes in the beach area from Jan. 1 to Aug. 12 of last year compared to two this year, and the number of homicides held flat at zero.
“I’ve asked our officers who patrol the beach to get out of their cars and talk to people, to meet people. I want them to get to know the business owners on Rose [Avenue], Washington [Boulevard] and Venice [Boulevard] and all the major streets. We’ve also been meeting with different community groups,” Choi said. “There’s been a lot of outreach about crime prevention. It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach, and in this command it works for us.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin praised law enforcement for reducing crime in what had long been an area of concern. Over the past three years, he’s pushed LAPD brass to assign more patrol officers to Venice.
“I believe this shows that additional officers on patrol and community policing can make a difference,” Bonin said. “It’s particularly wonderful when crime is going down at a hotspot like Venice Beach. I’m hoping that this is a consistent trend.”
Despite the decrease in violent crime west of Pacific, property crime was a mixed bag. Burglaries rose from 14 in the first 7½ months of last year to 25 in that same timeframe this year, but incidents of grand theft auto dropped from 22 to 18 and overall thefts dropped from 152 to 135 (including a 49 to 35 decrease in thefts from vehicles).
Property crime throughout the Pacific Division area dropped 2.9% overall during the same time period, according to Choi.
Overall crime is down 3.5% throughout the Pacific Division patrol area along similar patterns to Venice Beach. Robberies have dropped 24.1%, from 224 to 170, while the number of aggravated assaults increased from 304 to 325 and burglaries rose from 621 to 637.
While crime is generally down in Mar Vista, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista, Choi acknowledged that Westchester is seeing a slight uptick in Part 1 crime (homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, thefts and arson). Specific breakdowns for those zip codes were not immediately available.
Police have also encountered an increase in criminal activity near the Mar Vista Gardens public housing complex, which for decades was the home base of the Culver City Boyz, a street gang that battled Venice 13 and the Venice Shoreline Crips in the 1980s and ’90s.
“We haven’t necessarily linked it to gang crime, but some of the descriptors that we get from victims make us think it might be some of the younger associates of the Culver City Boyz,” Choi said. “But through our Mar Vista Gardens Collaborative, we’ve dedicated resources there and our officers are working with the residents on any issues that might come up.”
BACK AT THE BEACH
While there may be a lingering perception that Venice Beach is an especially dangerous area, Choi feels the most recent crime statistics show otherwise.
So does Colleen Saro, chair of the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Ocean Front Walk Committee.
“I don’t really hear or feel that the boardwalk is that unsafe,” said Saro, who lives on Ocean Front Walk.
Nick Antonicello, who leads a council committee exploring independent cityhood, applauded the Pacific Division’s efforts but called for crime statistics to be more widely available to community members, beyond the current monthly updates delivered at neighborhood council meetings.
Venice Chamber of Commerce President George Francisco credited police for actively suppressing crime and echoed Choi’s enthusiasm for police working more closely with the business community.
“The chamber values its partnerships with LAPD and engaged members of the community, and we hope that by working together we have assisted in some of the positive results,” he said.
Choi takes pride in improving crime rates but realizes this is only a snapshot in time.
“We can obviously do better, and we will continue to focus on lowering crime,” he said.