Thursday, February 19, 2015

Five terrifying home invasions in 10 months underscore the dangerous reality facing Venice Beach residents

By Mark Ryavec

(In response to “Venice Needs More Cops,” news, Jan. 22; and “Homelessness and the Big Lie,” opinion, Jan. 15)

As a concerned resident living near the Venice boardwalk, I have to ask: Have five home invasions happened since April in any other six-block area of Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin’s district?

In his letter to Police Chief Charles Beck, Bonin agreed with the Venice Stakeholders Association’s lawsuit that Venice is fundamentally unsafe and under-policed. He has asked for more officers and that they be permanently stationed here so they can learn our unique conditions: a coastal park and major tourist destination next to a predominantly residential community with a large, problematic and occasionally dangerous transient population.

Bravo Mike! Better late than never.

The dangerous reality our councilman painted in his letter to Beck has been underscored in my immediate neighborhood, four blocks from Ocean Front Walk, by five home invasions since April committed by transients camping in or near the Venice Beach Recreation Area.

The first saw a drug-fueled beach dweller dive through a glass door on Horizon Avenue at 4:30 a.m. on April 8 and climb the stairs to the tenant’s apartment, dripping blood along his path. He proceeded to the bathroom where he tore two bolted sinks off the wall and was found, 25 minutes after the victim called 911, wrestling on the floor with the shower curtain. Neighbors had called LAPD prior to the break-in complaining about a hysterical and loud person on their street. The police dispatcher asked if he had done anything other than being loud and obnoxious, and the neighbors had to respond “no.”  The LAPD did not send a patrol car at that time, which could have prevented the traumatic experience the young mother and children had to endure, running for their lives down the back stairs, then to a neighbor’s across the street, and later having to face their blood-covered home.

The second was the now internationally famous Sept. 26 break-in on Riviera Avenue, where the drugged-out intruder (some 30 minutes earlier in police handcuffs being questioned on the street, according to a neighbor) forced a young actress out under her roof eave in her sleepwear, where she called police. Her precarious position was photographed by a passing neighbor, which went viral on the Internet.  After a 40-minute standoff, with the police below and the half-naked woman cowering on the roof, firefighters arrived and helped the woman to escape down a ladder.

The other three incidents were equally terrifying to the victims.

Two young men broke into a residence on Grand Boulevard in the middle of the night on July 18 while the young couple and their very small children were asleep, the mother told me.

On Oct. 4 on Rialto Avenue, neighbors rallied to defend a young woman screaming that someone had broken into her home in broad daylight and moved toward her with hands raised.

A young actor and his pregnant wife on Venice Boulevard were awakened in the middle of the night on Nov. 29 by an addled young woman, known to the police, who had climbed their fence and broken in.

On these pages a columnist recently suggested that I and others are exaggerating the threat from the large transient population in Venice. I would challenge anyone questioning the danger Venice residents currently face to talk to any of these residents to understand the fear they live in. The young mother in the first episode above now lives in Santa Monica behind three locked doors.

Maybe this is what the columnist meant when she wrote that “People come to Venice to be changed by Venice, not to change Venice.” This young woman and her oldest child, who was old enough to know the danger they were in, are certainly changed; they now live in fear.

This shibboleth, that those who choose to live in Venice must not try to change it, is fundamentally undemocratic.

I was born in Santa Monica, but my father’s career in the Navy sent us out-of-state for 11 years. When we returned in 1961, residents had a choice of voting in local elections for either conservative Republicans or the even more conservative John Birchers. Fast-forward to the construction of the Santa Monica Freeway bringing thousands of new apartment units and their far more liberal inhabitants. In 30 years Santa Monica went from far-right to the People’s Republic of Santa Monica.

Just as the new renters in Santa Monica many years ago had the right to exercise their political values, the newcomers to Venice — frequently families with young children — have every right to demand a safe environment.

Also, after 28 years in Venice it’s ludicrous for anyone to contend that I’m a newcomer or that I should just bend over and accept the filth, crime and danger that frequents the boardwalk and its surroundings.

The trend in Venice is on the side of those who demand public safety. Those who dream of the Venice of 1970 may be the ones who should think of moving on. Check the calendar: It’s 2015 and your time is up.

Mark Ryavec is president of the Venice Stakeholders Association.