Friday, April 3, 2015

From Yo!Venice's First Print Edition: Is Charlie Beck a Climate-Change Denier?

Is Charlie Beck a Climate-Change Denier?

Yo! Venice Contributor

Do you think the LAPD should implement demand staffing that automatically 
puts additional officers in Venice when the temperature is predicted to go 
over 74 degrees?                             


This might appear to be an odd question, but it
has significant implications for the safety of residents
and visitors in Venice.

Anyone who has lived here for the last three
decades, as I have, knows that the weather we have
been having is bizarre. Cool and rainy is the historical
weather in winter and early spring. But since
Jan. 1 we have had 18 days above 77 degrees and 10
days above 84 degrees. We hit 93 on March 14.

These conditions draw many of Los Angeles
County’s 10 million residents to the beach to cool
off, and a good proportion of them come to Venice.
Estimates range from 11 to 16 million visitors
annually. This causes a severe strain on public
safety, one that is apparently not understood at the
highest levels of the Los Angeles Police Department. 

 It appears that Chief Charlie Beck and his
management team do not accept that climate patterns
have changed and that visitor flow to Venice
has increased with it.

Two LAPD officers recently told me that on
these very hot days they are “slammed” and cannot
keep up with the situation. The huge increase in
visitors requires that they focus on gang suppression,
traffic violations, accidents, an increase in
crime, more radio calls, etc.

This distracts them from enforcing quality-of-life
ordinances that are important to residents, like
the ban on open alcohol containers in public,
harassment of residents, trespass on private property,
public defecation and urination, drug dealing,
illegal camping along Venice Beach and total
blockage of sidewalks by transient encampments, a
violation of the American with Disabilities Act.
This is because enforcing these laws will usually
take two officers off the beach for at least half a day
to transport and book the offenders. The Beach
Detail commander and officers have told me that
officers cannot in good conscience be absent from
Venice when the visitor numbers skyrocket.

The LAPD focus on visitors has other ramifications.
For example, a plan to fully enforce the 12-
5 am Beach Curfew and the ban on camping in the
Venice Beach Recreation Area – including an
LAPD presence in the Venice Beach Recreation
Area (VBRA) at 4 am – is on hold due to the diversion
of staffing to daytime hours. The result is that
the VBRA continues to be a powerful magnet for
transients from across the nation, including a percentage
of criminals, mentally ill and the drug-addled.

On a recent stroll along Venice Beach at
5 am I counted at least 26 people camping in tents,
lean-tos or out in the open in sleeping bags. (Due to
the poor lighting there may have been many more
that I could not see.) It only takes one of these disaffected
transients in a drugged-out state to lose it
and someone gets hurt or killed, as we saw with the
vehicle assault that left Italian newlywed Alice
Gruppioni dead and 16 people injured on the
Boardwalk less than two years ago. And as we witnessed
just recently when a transient bit off the tip
of the finger of Clabe Harley, the owner of the
Cow’s End restaurant on Washington Boulevard.
The transient had been harassing Harley’s customers.
When Harley moved in to defend his customers,
the transient attacked him – with his teeth.

As many Venetians know, Venice receives a
summer compliment of about 35 additional officers
starting with Memorial Day. (Some years ago,
when there were several incidents of gang-related
violence on the Boardwalk, the number was
higher). The purpose of the additional officers is to
cope with the huge increase in visitors drawn by
warmer weather and school vacations. And to prevent
gang conflicts that can quickly careen out of
control and cause harm to innocent bystanders.
With the very hot temperatures we’ve been
seeing, the LAPD should have followed the crowds
and implemented demand staffing that automatically
put additional officers in Venice when the
temperature is predicted to go over 74 degrees.

Captain Nicole Alberca, the new commander
of Pacific Division, told me recently that she had
requested additional staffing for hot days but been
told by LAPD headquarters to find the officers by
reassigning within Pacific Division. But the visitors
are largely from other parts of Los Angeles or the
County’s other 87 cities, not from just Pacific Division.
If the increased summer staffing is to address
the increase in visitors than logically Venice
deserves the increase whenever the temps go over
74 degrees. There is even a good argument that
County sheriffs should also be posted here since a
large number of visitors are not from the City of
Los Angeles but rather from other cities in the
County of Los Angeles or from points farther

Captain Alberca acknowledged that when
thousands of our inland neighbors seek relief in
Venice from extreme temperatures, the LAPD
presence is very thin in comparison with the size of
the crowds and that attention to resident concerns

We have long passed the time that City and
County leaders should have realized that Venice is
the most popular, free recreational destination in
Southern California and that it requires significantly
more police resources from both the City and
County whenever temperatures go up, which is
now happening more frequently due to climate