Five dead dogs, four of them mutilated and the fifth apparently hanged, have been found in a state-owned park near Laurel Canyon, state police said last week.
Authorities say the discovery has heightened fears that Fryman Canyon Park may have become a late-night center for drug use, loitering, vandalism and gang activity.
Lt. Robert Boyd, a spokesman for the California State Police, said the dogs have been found by officers over the last two weeks. Boyd said four of the dogs appeared to have been stabbed in the chest, while a fifth evidently was hanged from a tree.
Police Questioned Youths
Joe Edmiston, director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which oversees the park, said police questioned more than a dozen juveniles found loitering in the park last weekend, as part of a stepped-up effort to control delinquency on the site.
None of the juveniles was arrested, but Edmiston said he was worried that the park might be a gathering point for members of local street gangs.
Fryman Canyon Park, known popularly as "the rain forest," has long been known as an after-hours hangout for teen-agers, Edmiston said. The 69-acre park is bounded by Mulholland Drive and residential neighborhoods on the edge of Studio City.
Edmiston said that, during day, the rough terrain of the park is a popular hiking spot, graced with a natural spring and many large trees.
Hangout for Teens
The park is surrounded by a chain-link fence, with an entrance off Mulholland Drive. Although the park is closed and locked every night, Edmiston said, it has long attracted teen-agers who come to drink beer and carouse.
Because the park is owned by the state, Los Angeles police rarely enter and, until recently, Edmiston said, state police patrolled it only in response to complaints.
Locally, "it was known as the place you went to party," said Edmiston, who accompanied police on their recent weekend sweep. "There was talk of drug use and wild parties, but most of the evidence you can see is that there's a lot of heavy beer drinking."
Boyd said the bodies of the dogs were found during one of those recent checks, when state police were called to investigate what he said was an unrelated accident in the area. The accident injured a juvenile who had been swinging from a rope tied to one of the trees. Boyd declined to discuss details of the accident, but a police source said the injuries were serious and included several broken bones.
Owners Not Yet Traced
While preparing their report, Boyd said, police found the dogs at the northern end of the park. The dogs were in "various stages of decomposition," and their owners have not yet been traced, Boyd said. One dog was a German shepherd, another was an Irish setter and the others appeared to be mixed breeds, Boyd said.
During the same visit, Boyd said, state police noticed that some of the trees had been marked with graffiti, which may be a sign of increased gang presence.
Boyd said authorities are not yet sure what to make of the incident. After the discovery, state police met with Los Angeles police, conservancy officials and representatives of City Councilman Joel Wachs to discuss proposals to patrol the site more frequently.
At that meeting, state police agreed to begin a series of random sweeps of the park to clamp down on illegal nighttime activities.
Boyd said state police had no clues yet to the dog-killing incidents, and no evidence connecting the killings to juveniles using the park.
Renee Weitzer, a spokeswoman for Wachs, said the councilman had never received complaints of delinquency there.