LAPD Moves to Curb "Lawlessness" on Venice Beach

A rising tide of hostility along Venice's famous boardwalk has prompted residents to call on the LAPD for help, Martha Groves reports.

Nearly two months ago, the Los Angeles Police Department began an aggressive campaign to clean up the Venice Boardwalk. In response to complaints from longtime residents and business owners, police are enforcing a midnight curfew because of transients that "openly used and dealt drugs on the beach, got into fights, smashed bottles, spat on passers-by and panhandled aggressively," according to Groves.

But Venice owes its image and culture in large part to its transient population, and the curfew has pushed many homeless people inland. "People need a place to sleep," said Carol Sobel, an attorney representing a group of homeless people whose encampment was dismantled by police. "Shutting down where people can be... creates a lot of problems. It doesn't resolve the issue but just moves them from block to block."

Other opponents of aggressive police measures include the California Coastal Commission who argue that the curfew violates state beach access rules, and those who fear that "the city runs the risk of taming the wild and woolly atmosphere that has made Venice a destination that attracts 16 million people a year."

Residents say an influx of young "travelers" from the Pacific Northwest roughly a year and a half ago brought with it a worsened sense of lawlessness on the boardwalk. Many of the transients capitalized on merchants vying for limited vendor space, "reserving" spaces oftentimes by force. The trend drove away a number of musicians and artists, while the transients used the proceeds to purchase and resell medical marijuana.

Many residents are thankful for police enforcement of the curfew: as Groves puts it, "Longtime Venetians have expressed delight at having a somewhat sanitized Venice - more 'Beach Blanket Bingo,' less 'Mad Max.'"

Full Story: In Venice, a battle over the boardwalk

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