Venice Residents Living in Constant Fear of Crime

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John Gavert, performing on the Venice Boardwalk was attacked by a homeless man.

Venice Street performer John Gavert, 70, was singing and dancing last June, when he was sucker-punched by Marco Harger, a homeless man, who lived on the Boardwalk. Gavert fell to the ground and lost consciousness. He was hospitalized with serious injuries.

A month later Gavert was again performing, when a homeless woman started harassing him and then tried to hit him. This time, Gavert took out mace and sprayed the woman. Police arrived and took her into custody.

SO MUCH VIOLENCE IN VENICE:

A Venice resident told Circling the News “we’ve seen so much violence, we’re numb. If I could put a finger on the mood, I would say we have PTSD.”

PTSD (Posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health diagnosis that can be characterized by five events or symptoms:

1)    Life threatening event that a person experienced or witnessed that could happen again.

2)    Internal reminders of the event that could include nightmares or flashbacks.

3)    Those with PTSD try to avoid thinking about the event(s) and suppress feelings about it.

4)    With an altered anxiety state, means people feel on edge, more anxious and they are jumpy and look over their shoulders more often.

5)    Changes in mood or thinking, which mean people with PTSD think the world is dangerous. Some may refuse to go out – yet others may act in the opposite way and engage in risky behaviors.

Those who live in the three-square-mile area near the beach have seen more than their share of life-threatening events.

An arsonist’s fire destroyed this Venice home and killed a pet, Togo. The fire was thought to have been intentionally set by a transient and trapped the dog inside.
Photo: Westside Current

One Venice resident, who tried to save a dog from a home set on fire by a transient, said “It was yelping so loud -the sound isn’t the usual dog sound – it was suffering.” The dog’s owner, a doctor was working, when her pet, a husky mix burned.

“My neighbor picked up a scooter and started ramming into the walls. He was doing all he could to break in and save the woman who lives there and her dog,” said Cecily–a neighbor who wishes to have her last name withheld for safety reasons. “The dog kept yelping –and then it stopped.”

Fires, stabbings, shootings and drug use have taken away the quality of life at Venice, (the 2020 population was 29,135). Crime Grade (Crimegrade.org) gave the beach community on the Westside a grade of D for violent crimes with a crime occurring every 8 hours and 49 minutes (on average). By comparison Palisades received a B- for violent crime.

Outforia, a website of resources for people who want to experience nature, released a list of the most dangerous beaches in the United States and Venice Beach ranked number one. Criminal activity was mapped from May to September 2021 and Outforia reported 630 crimes in the Venice area, giving the beach the highest number of thefts, robberies and violent crimes such as assault, homicide and sexual violence among the 29 beaches that were accessed.

Crime has exploded in the Venice area, and so has the homeless population.

Many say the homeless crisis is solely a housing crisis, “housing first,” is constantly repeated. There are no studies that prove permanent supportive housing/apartments will fix homelessness.

Instead, developers and nonprofits stand to gain the most from building housing while addiction, mental illness, crime – and grifters are not addressed.

Not all homeless have ended up on the street because of economic issues. Some are felons, such as Gregory Hopkins who came to Venice from Carbondale, Illinois, where he allegedly murdered his wife.

Sex offender Arnoldo Cruz, reached into a woman’s window in Venice to grope her. He was registered in Colorado but did not register in California.

Alaia Smith, 19, who pulled the knife on Councilmember Joe Buscaino, is from Washington and was arrested in Wisconsin for participating in the Kenosha, Wisconsin, 2020 riots.

A Colorado man barricaded himself in an RV that was parked in a church parking lot and refused to leave, which necessitated a LAPD SWAT team.

 

PROTECTING THE ELDERLY: JOHN DECINDIS

John DeCinids was killed by a transient.

A long-time resident, John DeCindis, 76, was walking his dog when he was confronted and followed by a homeless man, Obie Thompson, 45. In an alleged unprovoked attack, Thompson went after DeCindis.

DeCindis was hospitalized with several fractures and on February 27 he died from those injuries.

Thompson listed Saint Joseph’s Center in Venice as his home address. Police found he had a long history of criminal activity including a 2017 assault with a deadly weapon in Santa Barbara.

CHARLIE ARAGON

Charlie Aragon

Venice resident Charlie Aragon, 77, was attacked and later died from injuries, when he stepped in to help a female neighbor from being harassed by a homeless individual.

The harassment escalated from lewd comments to aggression. Concerned, Charlie drove his scooter in between the two.

 According to Aragon’s sister, the individual then pushed Charlie’s scooter over. Charlie fell with his scooter. The fall injured his ribs. He also suffered several lacerations. 

JESUS VALDIVIA

Jesus Valdivia

Jesus Valdivia, a Venice resident, was on the corner of Beethoven Street and Victoria Avenue. Residents said a homeless man, Dylan Brumley, 33, tried to steal the 71-year-olds bicycle. During the struggle, Valdivia fell to the pavement and hit his head and died.

Brumley had lived under the 405 underpass and was also wanted in Culver City on robbery charges. He had been interviewed by Joel Grover of the I-Team in a report that pointed to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authorities lack of success.

During the report, Brumley said, “I have violent anger tendencies.” He said he burned himself on his arms with cigarettes so he didn’t hurt others.

When Brumley was asked about LAHSA’s help when it comes to drug treatment and mental health services– Brumley told the reporter that he mostly sees them [LAHSA] hand out snacks.

The Westside Current has reported violent incidents in Venice, such as “A security guard was severely beaten by a person experiencing homeless. The attack happened in the parking lot of Arbor Collective, located at 102 Washington Blvd.

Business owner Bob Carlson said “his guard, ‘T,’ who is well-loved by employees and the community, was asking a person experiencing homelessness to leave the company parking lot after observing they were under the influence. The homeless person then took a bottle and hit ‘T’ over his head, breaking the bottle and stabbing him multiple times, according to Carlson.”

OTHER CRIMINALS:

Macio Martinez Harger, 45, approached a man about 12:40 p.m. on June 6, 2021, in the 500 block of Ocean Front Walk and punched him in the face.    The man lost consciousness after he was struck, and Harger fled the scene, police said.  Paramedics took the man to a hospital, where he was treated for “serious injuries.”

Harger, who was living in a homeless encampment nearby, was arrested two days later.

In September 2020, Kwan Dante Adams, 24, is alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman near the Venice Pier that left her unconscious and suffering from severe head trauma.

LAPD booked Adams on an outstanding robbery arrest warrant, he was also wanted on a felony armed robbery charge.

THE KIDS:

There is a large homeless encampment, which includes RVs around the intersection of Venice Boulevard and Electric Avenue.

KCAL 9 did a December 2021 story about the Electric Avenue encampment that neighbors call an “open-air crime den.”

“There are drug addicts, and there’s gang activity, there are shootings,” the report said.

“An 11-year-old interviewed for the story described what it’s like to live near the encampment. She said, ‘I’m not sure if it’s firecrackers or it’s gunshots [that I hear]. I can’t tell the difference between them, and the sad thing is I don’t want to be able to tell the difference as an 11-year-old.’”

For two years, parents tried to have an RV moved that was illegally parked in front of Westminster Elementary School. There were concerns about noise, sanitation issues, drugs and possible violence. A fence was put up in the school yard in an attempt to shield children from criminal behavior.

One parent said, “The RV that has been parked here for the last couple of years terrorizing this school, these children, this neighborhood has finally been removed and we couldn’t be more thrilled for the partnership from the city and DOT for getting this done. We appreciate it.”

School employees were taught how to pick up hypodermics that were found along Main Street. One said, “Finally, parents can park here and walk their children in without being afraid.”

 

THE DRUGS:

Homeless activist Garry Featherstone said he was illegally searched.

Drugs are a problem in encampments, and in February 22, Gary Featherstone, who is a homeless advocate, was arrested for drug possession, but claims he was “illegally searched.”

Featherstone, a resident of the Ramada Inn Homeless Shelter, also operates “Homeless Enterprise, from a 3rd Avenue tent where he sells sodas, candy, and other snacks and beverages to the local homeless population. His business is registered with the city of Los Angeles Finance Department.

Last August, a teenager has died from a suspected drug overdose on the Venice Boardwalk, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The deceased teenager was one of two who were hospitalized after the Los Angeles Fire Department said they became suddenly ill around 3 p.m.Firefighters say the teens, who were from a youth group, were taken to a Santa Monica Hospital by LAFD Paramedics.

It was reported that this death was not related to an earlier overdose at the Rose Avenue and Ocean Front Walk bathroom around 8 a.m. that same morning.

Many  transients who lived in the boardwalk encampment were offered help, but chose to move to other locations in Venice.

(Editor’s note: to read about crimes in Venice, go to Westsidecurrent.com, which was started two years ago to document the unreported stories in that area. In the search bar, put arrests, LAPD, arson and assaults, and the more than 1,000 stories about crimes that the residents have been exposed to, will be available.)

 

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