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LAPD beefs up patrols on Venice boardwalk after violence [Updated]

April 27, 2011 |  5:01 pm

Crowds of people watch as members of the Calypso Tumblers perform along the Venice Beach boardwalk Sunday morning, near the spot where a man would be shot later in the evening. (Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles police said Wednesday that they had stepped up patrols in the Venice Beach area after a series of attacks including a shooting during a “flash mob” gathering and a stabbing on the beach this past weekend of a man in a drum circle.

The latest incident occurred this week when a volunteer with the Marine Mammal Rescue Center was punched in the face by the owner of a dog that was he was trying to prevent from biting a sick seal.

Data from Crime L.A. shows that violent crime increased somewhat in the Venice boardwalk area over the last three years. There were at least 34 violent crimes reported as of April 22 of this year, compared to 28 in the same period of 2010 and 27 in the 2009 period, according to Crime L.A., which is a Times analysis of LAPD crime data. [Updated at 5:55 p.m.: An analysis of crime data closer to the boardwalk area, roughly west of Pacific Avenue, shows that violent crime increased from 23 incidents between Jan. 1 and April 26 in 2009 to 26 in the same period of 2011.]

LAPD West Bureau Cmdr. Andy Smith said the bureau’s violent crime task force, made up of about two dozen officers, has been deployed to address crime spikes.

“We’ve been sending them out there a lot lately to put the lid on craziness like this,” Smith said.

He said various factors played into the incidents in an area that can be challenging to patrol because, in addition to the large crowds, police deal with the homeless, young runaways, gangs and people under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol is believed to have played a role in the Easter Sunday stabbing of a 20-year-old man during a fight that broke out around dusk. The victim was drumming in a group known for its eclectic mix of bohemians, homeless people and tourists.

The previous weekend a man was critically injured in a spasm of violence that resulted from a “flash mob” in which people were directed through Twitter and online messaging to show up Saturday at the shoreline basketball courts along Ocean Front Walk.

By late afternoon, the crowd, including young men with tattoos and in gang attire, had swelled and about 6:30 p.m., six to eight shots rang out at 17th Avenue and Ocean Front Walk, Vasquez said. The shots set off a what one onlooker described as “a human tidal wave.” The critically injured victim ran half a block to an alley, where he collapsed.

Smith said that  overall crime in the Pacific Division, the LAPD patrol area that includes Venice, has been trending down. Serious crimes are down about 9% so far in 2011 and violent crime has dropped about 5.6% compared to the same period in 2010. He said that even stepped-up patrols working Venice Beach and the surrounding areas will get additional deployments as the weather grows warmer and more people flock to the shoreline.

“Overall, [violent and serious] crime is down, but incidents of this nature, in a destination for families and tourists, causes us huge concern,” he added.

On the boardwalk Wednesday, some people said they hoped the LAPD presence would bring more peace.

“It definitely makes Angelenos look bad,” Joe Sanchez said. “Added police presence is definitely necessary.”

-- Andrew Blankstein and Ching-Ching Ni in Venice

Photo: The scene in Venice. Rick Loomis / L.A. Times