Residents in Los Angeles’ Venice neighborhood frustrated over large homeless encampment, shootings, stabbings
Seattle parents finds katana sword, axe inside homeless encampment next to son’s school
Ryle Goodrich says that despite the potential dangers posed to children, the city has not made plans to remove the encampment.
Residents in Los Angeles’ coastal Venice neighborhood are calling for action over homeless encampments in the area that have been connected to a string of crimes, including shootings, fights, fires and drug use.
The city as a whole is grappling with a homeless crisis that has only gotten worse in recent years. Over five years, the homeless population has increased by half, according to a January report released by the Luskin Center for History and Policy at the University of California in Los Angeles.
In Venice, some of the more violent incidents alarming residents and business owners include an April 28 shooting in which a man was shot but survived. No suspects have been identified, the Los Angeles Police Department told Fox News. Another includes a Monday explosion inside an encampment that caused a fire.
The incidents are the latest of several chaotic events that have prompted concern from residents over the expansion of homeless encampments along the city’s famous boardwalk – Ocean Front Walk – and elsewhere in a neighborhood known for its beach and canals, which draw visitors from all over the region.
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Kevin Buttress, 32, who owns the Xquisite Barber Lounge barbershop, told Fox News he was attacked in November by a pit bull owned by a homeless person and was knocked unconscious with a skateboard. He’s owned his businesses for five years and has been cutting hair in the area for eight years, he said.
“I’ve given a lot of myself to the community of Venice Beach,” Buttress said. “And to see everything just fall to pieces, it’s messed up.”
He said the suspect in his attack was arrested and released days later amid efforts by Los Angeles County to cut the number of jail inmates over concerns about the spread of COVID-19. He noted that shootings, stabbings and other violent crimes are now common in the area.
Thousands of people flock to Venice each day to enjoy themselves on Venice beach and the boardwalk, a promenade filled with shops, restaurants, art vendors, side-show acts and street performers. During the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 200 tents have been erected on the boardwalk, according to a letter signed by hundreds of residents to city and county officials this week.
“Venice’s world famous beach and boardwalk are crippled,” the letter reads. “Local children are refusing to come to the beach because they’re frightened by what they’ve witnessed. Seniors who live on or near the boardwalk are terrified of walking in their own neighborhoods.”
Shopkeepers used to clear the few tents that appeared in the area when they opened for business, but several months of lockdowns and business closures led to an expansion of encampments, Soledad Ursua, a Venice resident and a member of the Venice Neighborhood Council, told Fox News.
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“You make sure to get home by dusk,” Ursua said. “There’s fights multiple times a day on the Ocean Front Walk… stabbings, shootings are happening weekly. It’s just a very dangerous time to be a Venice resident right now.”
Updated crime statistics provided by the Los Angeles Police Department to the council, which shared them with Fox News, show violent crime robberies in the neighborhood up 177% and a 162% increase in cases of assault with a deadly weapon involving a homeless person.
Videos posted to social media show tents lined up along the boardwalk as some homeless in the area engage in scuffles and harassment. In another, someone is seen throwing something into a tent before it becomes engulfed in flames during a May 3 incident. Bystanders used water and sand to extinguish the blaze.
In January, a fire destroyed a building on the boardwalk that apparently started at an encampment and spread to the structure, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. Last month, a family dog named Togo was killed in a house fire that some believe was started by homeless people in the area.
Togo “became the latest victim of Venice’s continued degeneration when a transient threw an accelerant into his home, burning him alive,” an online tribute reads.
Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the area, said the solution to removing the homeless is to free up more housing, a herculean task for a city that is severely lacking in affordable housing stock. He said he was working with the Los Angeles Fire Department on a new program that would focus on engaging the homeless on the boardwalk in an effort to prevent fire risks and to respond to emergencies.
“The surest way to prevent fires at homeless encampments is to help people move off the streets, out of encampments, and into housing or shelter,” Bonin said in a statement from his office to Fox News.
He cited the expected opening of a homeless shelter near the Los Angeles International Airport and efforts to push for interim housing and funding for housing and mental health and drug abuse services in Venice.
Buttress said shelters aren’t the answer since many homeless on the boardwalk are content with living on the beach.
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“Most of them are content with living on the beach because they don’t want to have a curfew… somebody giving any rules and not being able to do the drugs that they do and not be able to behave the way they want to behave,” he said.
Ursua said residents want more police patrols and for leaders – including Bonin – to stop efforts to defund the LAPD.
“We need more enforcement,” she said. “When you take away law enforcement, you’re just asking for this. It’s really enabling all these people to live here because they know that they can do this and get away with it.”
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