25 Homeless Sleeping on Venice Beach Are Arrested
Police conducting a pre-dawn sweep arrested 25 homeless people sleeping on the Venice beach Wednesday, in a stern warning to transients who break a new law banning overnight camping at the shore.
The 23 men and two women, who a witness said were handcuffed and taken from the beach in a police van, were being transferred to a jail in Van Nuys Wednesday, a police spokesman said. The cases will be turned over to the city attorney’s office for possible prosecution.
Although they were arrested for sleeping on the beach, a misdemeanor, “several” of the detained homeless were wanted on outstanding warrants for more serious crimes, Sgt. Mitch Grobeson said.
Police called the arrests a “stepped-up enforcement” of a law sponsored by City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter that bans overnight camping on the beach. Wednesday’s sweep was the first time since the law went into effect Jan. 17 that police have arrested camped-out transients en masse, officials said. “We’d been warning them for some time,” Grobeson said. “What I would hope now is that they’ll leave the beach and take advantage of social programs.”
The new law came in response to mounting protests from some homeowners and merchants who complained that the tent encampments that had sprung up on Venice’s beach were ruining the neighborhood.
The homeless issue bitterly divided the Venice community, long considered a free-spirited enclave on California’s coast. At one point, Venice was thought to have one of the highest concentrations of homeless in the county.
After the law went into effect, the estimated 125 people living on the beach vanished. But they began “trickling back” in recent weeks, police said.
“We were getting barraged by citizens’ complaints that those (transients) who had left (in January) were back,” Grobeson said.
Homeless advocates, however, criticized the police action.
“There has never been a period in Venice’s history when people didn’t sleep outside,” said Jennifer Pirie, a homeowner and member of a pro-homeless group named Venice Neighbor to Neighbor. “This doesn’t have to do with the discreet outdoor sleeping. This gets down to (people) who want to have poor people removed. “