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Violent robberies put Silver Lake, Echo Park on edge

February 5, 2009 |  8:34 am

Officials will hold a community meeting tonight to discuss a series of recent violent robberies in Echo Park and Silver Lake that have left some residents on edge.

There have been four robberies over the last week, in addition to six in December, police said. The robberies occurred along Sunset Boulevard from Alvarado Street toward Silver Lake and Griffith Park Boulevard.

Capt. William A. Murphy, commander of the LAPD's Northeast Division, said patrols have been increased and officers from the station's gang unit have been assigned to reduce those crimes.

In all of the ten reported cases now, the victims targeted have been men who were seen walking alone, Murphy said. The suspects used guns and other types of weapons to obtain wallets, cell phones, and other items from their victims, authorities said.

Although the number of violent incidents reported within a such a short period of time in the eclectic neighborhood can suggest a spike in violent crime, overall crime numbers don’t support that, according to a Times analysis of LAPD crime data.

This past month and last December there were 19 violent robberies and aggravated assaults reported in the general area. Ten robberies were reported in November and 23 in October.

But one incident last weekend particularly alarmed residents: A man was severely beaten during such a robbery.

Rumors have spread that the cases are hate crimes, but LAPD officials discounted that idea and said they believe the assailants are gang members.

Tuesday, police and city officials assured residents that the robberies were not hate crimes.

“It’s spread out; there’s no particular race targeted,” Murphy said.

“Any attack puts fear into people, but we must band together,” added Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose  district includes a portion of the area.

But residents said they were angered that authorities had not alerted them about the robberies. “Most said they got a lot of their information through the Internet,” LaBonge said. “Silver Lake is a well connected community.”

Murphy said his officers were placed on alert after the first couple of robberies while they tracked similarities in the crimes.

“We looked for trends, so it may take a few days,” Murphy said.

Police and city officials will hold a community meeting to discuss the incidents tonight at 6 at Ivanhoe Elementary School in Silver Lake.

-- Ruben Vives

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