Residents of Venice Beach, California are urging Los Angeles officials to take steps against homeless overnight campers and crime as tourists flood the area in anticipation of the Super Bowl. About 70 homeless people are camping at Venice Beach overnight as the nation heads to Los Angeles for Super Bowl Sunday. Residents are concerned that transients may set off fires in their homes, causing them to spread to nearby businesses and homes. Mark Ryavec, President of Venice Neighborhood Council, told Fox News Digital that there has been a string of fires.
Ryavec stated that about 200 homeless people were removed from the beach last summer. However, Ryavec said that the remaining 70 are either mentally ill or drug addicts.
Ryavec stated that the Los Angeles city leadership had “not finished the job.” Ryavec argues that law enforcement requires more resources. He believes that officers from the LAPD who only come once per week to remove homeless campers from boardwalks should be coming at least twice to three times per week to be more effective.
“The police and other city agencies have made a brave effort with very few resources. They are only there for one night per week. Ryavec stated that the campers are basically playing cat and mouse.” They’ll be told to leave by the police, then they’ll go, and then they return. They’re not actually gone. Our concern is another fire, one that could lead to the loss of lives.
A Venice Neighborhood Council attorney sent an earlier month a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Councilman Mike Bonin. The letter warned that the city could be held responsible for lawsuit payments in excess of $2.5 million if a fire resulting from overnight homeless encampments spreads to homes and businesses.
It occurred one year after the anniversary of a huge January 2021 fire. The flames from the homeless camp jumped onto an unoccupied building and over 100 firefighters were needed to extinguish the fire. Los Angeles is now suing the owner.
The February 4th letter pointed out that transients had set fires on the Venice Beach boardwalk in recent months. Two people intoxicated set fire to a cardboard box and destroyed a park bench by setting it ablaze on the boardwalk. Two people set 15 trash cans on the boardwalk ablaze the next night.
Ryavec stated that “Frankly, it was the city and the social services agencies who created the problem” by making it attractive to live in Venice Beach. The bathrooms are open all hours. There are now social service agencies that offer free food and help to bring it down.
They were giving out blankets and tents. Even a doctor from the nearby free clinic is coming down to help them. Some people would rather have their own apartment.
After a homeless man attacked and killed another person with a machete in the homeless camp on Venice Beach last summer, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva called in teams to clear out the tents. Ryavec says that his teams were successful for around a month and caused so much embarrassment to the mayor and council members, they were forced to create their own social services agencies, funding, and vouchers for housing.
“The sheriff was the one who forced the city into action, and we are very grateful to him.” Ryavec explained that he took a lot of flak for his actions and that the city supervisor had argued Villanueva didn’t have jurisdiction.
“Basically, during the pandemic, the mayor and councilperson instructed the police to not enforce any existing laws, including the curfew, camping, anti-camping, and tent laws. Ryavec said that it was a stupid decision as relocating people and getting people off the beaches is not enough to spread COVID. “There was an incredible acceleration in crime.”
After Villanueva claimed he refused to fire some 4,000 employees because they were not vaccinated, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decided to remove Villanueva from his enforcement powers.
Ryavec stated that the LAPD cannot collect or impounded the belongings of homeless people. Garcetti hired additional staff to help with sanitation and trucks. They would remove, store, and then place such items in warehouses so people could claim them within 90 days. Since then, this extra staffing has been reduced.
Ryavec stated that “the trouble is that they don’t go out often enough to make campers feel like there is any chance of being arrested or having their belongings taken away.” I have been asking the mayor’s office for help to bring those bodies and that staff back out with the police to let homeless campers know that you will not only be given a ticket and possibly arrested but that your stuff has gone to storage and that you will need to go through some procedures to get it back.
Tourists are still on edge following the shooting of a tourist from Florida. The victim was walking along the boardwalk to return to his car rental car with his girlfriend. According to police, a group of men in black ski masks approached the tourist and demanded that he hand over his Cartier watch. Ryavec called the location of the violent robbery “a hot spot” for criminal activity.
He said that “there have been some gang leaders or ex-gang members who identified this as a location to deal with drugs and rob people.” This is not the first time that this location has been used. “I think that there is a perception among certain criminals that wealthy people are there and it’s easy to get in and out.”