June 23, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Sheriff Villanueva Announces Plan to Clear Encampments by July 4th

LASD Homeless Outreach Services Team visits Venice Boardwalk Tuesday

By Sam Catanzaro

Deputies were on the Venice Beach Boardwalk Tuesday doing outreach with homeless individuals as part of Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s plan to clear encampments there by Fourth of July. 

On Monday Villanueva visited the Boardwalk to announce a plan to clear encampments there by Fourth of July. In his remarks, Villanueva took aim at City of Los Angeles officials, blaming them for the prevalence of encampments in the area. 

“The city of LA created this problem. This is a failure of leadership from the very top, all the way down. If I go there to the end of Santa Monica, at the end of Santa Monica I don’t see any tents. There’s no stronger argument than the division between the two sides,” told a group of reporters. “I want to see the boardwalk full of tourists. I want to see the boardwalk full of all the wonderful people here that were selling their crafts that Venice was known for. That is what it needs to be. This is not Venice.”

A day after Villanueva made these remarks, LASD’s Homeless Outreach Services Team came to the Venice Boardwalk to start the process of clearing encampments and connecting homeless individuals to housing. LASD Lieutenant Geff Deedrick, the head of HOST, told NBC 4 that cleaning Boardwalk encampments by July 4 is a goal, but not a deadline, and that it could take much longer. 

The Boardwalk falls under Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) jurisdiction, but the Department said in a statement to the Associated Press that it supports Villanueva’s plans and is willing to work with partner agencies to improve safety and support for the homeless community. 

“The Los Angeles Police Department is committed to working with all of our public safety partner agencies and elected officials to improve the safety of our communities,” the LAPD said ”Including efforts to increase outreach and provide needed housing and supportive services in the Venice Beach community and elsewhere.”

In addition, NBC reported that LAPD Chief Michel Moore wants LA City Council to end a moratorium that prevents his officers from enforcing city no-camping laws. 

The Venice Boardwalk last month. Photo: Sam Catanzaro.

Villanueva’s Monday announcement was met with sharp criticism from LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents Venice.

“Villanueva is exploiting Venice to spread the nefarious lie, amplified by Tucker Carlson, John & Ken, and the LAPPL [Los Angeles Police Protective League], that crime and homelessness are caused by progressives and that the only fix is tougher laws, longer sentences, and more prisons,” Bonin wrote as part of a 15-post Twitter thread Tuesday morning. “He didn’t call to offer services or housing, which would help. He went on a PR blitz, promising his own notorious brand of justice. To anyone familiar with Villanueva and LASD, that’s incredibly ominous.” 

Villanueva’s visit came on the same day that a woman wielding a knife got within feet of LA mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino at a Venice Beach rally Monday morning. The incident occurred just moments after Buscaino finished delivering his remarks calling for “common sense, not nonsense” when it comes to dealing with homeless encampments in Los Angeles. 

LAPD officers escorted Buscaino to safety and detained the woman, who was later released from police custody. According to the LAPD, the subject is 19-year-old Alais Smith.

“The elements of an Assault with a Deadly Weapon were not met. Smith was issued an RFC (Release from Custody) Citation. Smith’s court date is 10/4/2021,” LAPD Officer Cervantes wrote in an email statement.

Buscaino and Bonin also have been involved in a political dispute recently. Last month, Buscaino was the only member of Los Angeles City Council to vote against a controversial Bonin proposal to look into bringing new homeless shelters to an array of Westside public spaces. Following Buscaino’s visit to the Boardwalk Monday, Bonin took to Twitter taking aim at his colleague.

“Look who visited Venice today, joining with people who have sued, appealed or protested to stop housing and shelter on the Westside. Since he is opposing even studying housing here, did anyone catch if he said how many unhoused people from Venice we can house in San Pedro?” Bonin wrote.

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