Neighbors in Venice Need to Band Together

For those that caught this post before I took it down, you might be wondering what the heck is going on. Well, I was strongly encouraged to take it down it because I could be construed as a “crusader” and trying to bring change to Venice could stir up the wrong pots. At the time my husband was out of town and being pregnant I didn’t want to take any undue risks. Since then I attended the Candlelight Memorial Service for Eun Y. Kang where many community members strongly advocated for forming Neighborhood Watches, and so I decided to post this again. I’m no crusader, I just want to ensure that the neighborhood I live in is safe for myself, my family and my neighbors. Both Assistant Commanding Office Andrew Smith of the LAPD South Bureau and Councilman Bill Rosendahl said that Neighborhood Watches should be your first line of defense in conjunction with the police. That answered my first question in the first paragraph of my original post.

Let’s try this again, shall we….

Is it time to consider the LAPD our backup plan as opposed to our first option for protection? With the budget cuts and considerably reduced force in neighborhoods like Venice, neighbors need to become more neighborly and look after each other. I’m not saying that citizens of Venice should work against the police, I’m saying that we need to strongly consider coming up with a new first line of defense in order to keep ourselves and our families safe.

Last night I came home to find a homeless man and his dog in my carport. It was dark and raining very hard, and I was alone. I called out of my car to the man bundled in his blanket to “please leave now.” He merely grunted. I thought about just parking my car and walking past him to my door because he was probably harmless and trying to keep dry. But then I thought about my unborn baby and thought about the horrific death of Eun Y. Kang just a few days before and I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. My landlord, husband and friends all advised me to call the police so I did. The dispatcher said the patrol car was on it’s way. I waited half an hour and called back and explained I was pregnant and scared to enter my home. The dispatcher said the patrol car was on it’s way. I called back after an hour and the dispatcher said the policemen had a higher priority call and didn’t know how long they would be but he was willing to stay on the phone with me while I went into my house. I hung up. I was tired and just wanted to go to bed, so I turned my high beams on the man and yelled again “please leave!” He finally did. Thankfully the incident ended friendly, but I am also very glad that I didn’t take any chances. Since I have told my story to some people, I have heard about cases that weren’t nearly as friendly. One woman told me about a time a homeless man in her carport was asked to leave and responded by “…smashing my garage door, threatening to burn down my house and torch it, swearing…”

I’m not targeting the homeless population in particular because there are also problems with drug trafficking, gangs, “hot prowls” and the list goes on. Just read the forums on Yo Venice! or the alerts on Voice of the Canals. I have a friend that literally packed up and left Venice for Santa Monica where they have their own police department because her and her family couldn’t take the drugs and violence that were happening outside her door.

I no longer go outside at night without an escort because I’ve heard of the increase in crime in Venice. Many women and families in Venice share this fear. I know many people say that’s just how Venice is. But does it need to be? Do we merely sit back and accept things how they are? I say NO!

When I was in San Francisco, I lived on Shotwell Street, known for prostitutes and drug trafficking. I joined the Shotwell Street Neighborhood Watch and we met regularly with the Mission Police Captain. Just before I left San Francisco the neighbors were creating committees to brainstorm different ways to prevent everything from bicycle theft to drug and alcohol abatement. Captain Tacchini himself said, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and was referring to citizens who get together and engage in regular conversation with the police and work to solve problems together.

The woman that had the unfortunate encounter with the homeless man said that her neighbors in Venice banded together and hired a security services company to patrol and offer armed response for a very minimal monthly payment per person. These armed responders come out to move homeless people sleeping on your property and other incidents that make you feel unsafe. The Venice Canals has this type of armed response too.

I would like to join a Neighborhood Watch program on my street in Venice and work with the LAPD to improve the safety in the area I live in. Is there an organization that helps you to create neighborhood watches? Do I need to start one? I looked on the Venice Neighborhood Council website and didn’t see anything on this topic. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. If you have some insight, please share in the comments. Since I originally posted this, I have done some research and found out that the LAPD has information on starting a Neighborhood Watch. You get some neighbors together and then talk to the LAPD to make it official and get them involved. Some great tips on preventing crime in your home and information on Neighborhood Watches can be found on the LAPD website.

My next step is to start recruiting my neighbors to start a Neighborhood Watch and go from there. Whether you live in Venice or not, I encourage you to join or start your own Neighborhood Watch.

39 Replies to “Neighbors in Venice Need to Band Together”

  1. Good for you, get that Neighborhood Watch going it really helps.

    When I lived in the Valley I had joined as our building was going to hell with drug dealers and with their help and LAPD’s of course we cleaned things up.

    Now in my new corner of LA I helped get it going when our cars were burglarized a year ago. We even started a neighborhood blog to keep track of what is going on, good and bad stuff, to keep everyone in the loop easily.

    Good luck on getting your Neighborhood Watch going!

  2. Hello Tara. I think we can help you out. Check out my start up http://www.citysourced.com. We’re local too. Drop me a line if you’d like to learn more. kurt.daradics /at/ citysourced /dot/ com

    CitySourced is a real time mobile civic engagement tool. CitySourced provides a free, simple, and intuitive tool empowering citizens to identify civil issues (potholes, graffiti, trash, snow removal, etc.) and report them to city hall for quick resolution; an opportunity for government to use technology to save money and improve accountability to those they govern; and a positive, collaborative platform for real action. Our platform is called CitySourced, as it empowers everyday citizens to use their smart phones to make their cities a better place. CitySourced is powered by FreedomSpeaks, the leader in interactive civic engagement.

  3. Hiring private security guards to keep homeless people away from you…that seems to me to be going down a slippery slope. Not to mention the issue of what right some rent-a-cop has to tell anyone what to do.

  4. Evan – When did I ever say to keep homeless people away from me? Explain to me what I’m supposed to do if I don’t feel safe walking to my front door because someone is trespassing on my property and the police never come. Lots of neighborhoods have security guards, why is that such an unacceptable concept to you if people are trespassing and the police are too busy?

  5. Todd – as I mentioned in my post, I was strongly encouraged to take it down because I was told that some people in the community might regard me as a crusader and not take kindly to it.

  6. “The woman that had the unfortunate encounter with the homeless man said that her neighbors in Venice banded together and hired a security services company to patrol and offer armed response for a very minimal monthly payment per person. These armed responders come out to move homeless people sleeping on your property and other incidents that make you feel unsafe.”

    To turn the question back to you, when did I say it was unacceptable? I just think paying for private security services bring up some uncomfortable issues of privilege and could lead to having one class of security and protection for one group, while other people that can’t afford to do that are stuck with poor services. Engaging with the police to bring community issues to their attention, and trying to provide services for the homeless seem like good ideas.

  7. Evan, what exactly are these uncomfortable issues of privilege that could result from hiring private security to keep people off your property? The point is that the police are clearly not able to protect anyone properly… wouldn’t hiring private security perhaps help police with the burden of keeping watch, thus actually increasing the quality of their services for those who can’t afford it?

  8. It sounds like you are over reacting since you have one tragedy fresh in your memory. At least what you are talking about is just hiring a security guard and not invading Iraq. However, look at the real crime statistics for Venice and then look at the crime perpetrated by the homeless. You pretty much have more of a chance of being struck by lightening.

  9. Realist – I am not overreacting and I don’t think you read my post very well because you clearly missed the whole point of it.

    “I’m not targeting the homeless population in particular because there are also problems with drug trafficking, gangs, “hot prowls” and the list goes on. Just read the forums on Yo Venice! or the alerts on Voice of the Canals. I have a friend that literally packed up and left Venice for Santa Monica where they have their own police department because her and her family couldn’t take the drugs and violence that were happening outside her door.”

    Of course the rape and murder and my situation are fresh in my mind but I have also been learning about the various crimes for months and months and months and finally want to do something about it.

  10. There will always be homeless in California. That being said, them trespassing on people’s property, hanging out in carports, etc., is not high priority, nor will it ever be. LAPD has a lot to keep them occupied, shootings, stabbings, domestic violence, etc. Neighborhood watch people bother me the most. Go get a life & stop staring out your windows 24/7 looking for “suspicious” people hanging around. Just because someone doesn’t fit the racial profile of your neighborhood, doesn’t mean they’re a criminal looking to get into trouble.

  11. CC, no one should have to accept strangers coming onto the property they pay for. It’s called private property. It’s too bad. Lots of homeless folks are down on their luck. Something needs to be done about it. However, that’s a separate issue from a citizen’s right to have their private property uninvaded. She pays rent, the landlord owns it: it’s not available for the public to sit on or sleep on.

    If I were homeless, I’d prolly end up hiding on private property too, since it seems safer. But it’s not my god-given right to do so.

    Also, the “racial profile” of Venice is incredibly diverse, so I don’t think for a minute that Tara was implying the racial profile of Venice was white. And she didn’t even say anything about looking for suspicious people of other races. Chip on your shoulder much?

  12. I lived in DC in the 80s and my experience with most of the homeless at that time and place is that they were simply poor and frequently had untreated mental illness. The majority of the crime in DC then, and I expect in LA now, didn’t come from homeless people. In fact, I found making friends with a few of them who hung out near my work (buying them sandwiches and things) made me feel more safe, not less.

    Might I suggest that the problem is that there was a man in your carport, not necessarily that the problem was a *homeless* man in particular? Perhaps it’s just a semantic distinction, but I think it’s a semantic distinction that carries a lot of political weight and that many of us are pretty sensitive to. I don’t think the issue is that the person was homeless. I think the issue is that he was in your carport.

  13. Might I suggest that the problem is that there was a man in your carport, not necessarily that the problem was a *homeless* man in particular?
    I think this is a very good point. It’s not that they’re homeless, it’s that they’re a stranger and they’re in your space. And that is not cool.

  14. I gotta say, my regret level on ever posting this is quite high. OK, so there was a man in my carport. Do I now have to stop describing people now?

    Should I have offered the “man” covered in a blanket with a dog in the middle of the night some soup and sandwich despite knowing all the scary shit (NOT ALL HOMELESS RELATED) that goes on in Venice? Is that more important than my safety?

    And again, it wasn’t about him being homeless, I talk to homeless people in my hood all the time, the point was that he was there in my carport and it was dark and raining and it scared the shit out of me and the police never came and I’m looking for other ways to deal with scary situations when I’m home alone and my husband isn’t there to assist me.

    If any of you are ever pregnant and home alone and encounter the same situation get back to me and let me know how you dealt with it better than me.

  15. There are definitely two separate issues going on. The safety aspect and how to handle that, and then the one people seem to have jumped on, which is specific to class and the homeless population (which doesn’t seem to have been the point of the post).

    Regarding the homeless issue the other commenters have jumped on: yes, in the specific incident Tara cited, the person was homeless, and in general people should be doing more to help those down on their luck as most are harmless. But people should also remember that some (only some!) people who are homeless do have mental problems and can be pretty desperate, and may do something desperate. When you look at the stats, they probably will say it’s rare in the scheme of things, but it doesn’t remove that small bit of risk. Yes, making friends with the homeless in your neighborhood can make you safer — but that’s not the issue.

    The issue is that there are (unfortunately) bad people out there, you don’t know who they are, and when you are vulnerable or feel that you’re in a vulnerable position, what do you do when you can’t rely on the police department to assist? Neighborhood watch should *not* mean being a nosy neighbor that watches out of their window all the time. It means you’re part of a community, and instead of saying “every man for himself” or “I don’t want to get involved, it’s not my problem”, you watch each others backs. And if that involves pooling funds to hire additional security, I can’t necessarily condemn that since it would relieve resource drain on the police department for *minor* calls.

    Just my 2 cents.

  16. Sorry about all this Tara, if there’s one thing that happens a lot in LA it’s people find some silly bike-shed issue to bitch and complain about forever while ignoring the real problem and thus never getting to it.

    Obviously the “homeless” aspect is what people are honing in on but as stated by several people that has nothing to do with this post. What does have to do with it, that people are missing, is that you couldn’t get into your house because there was a strange man blocking your path in the middle of the night. This isn’t a removed carport we’re talking about, it’s a carport you have to walk through to get to the door of your house. It was late, it was dark, and there was a strange man and his dog blocking your path, who denied your initial requests to move so you could get into your house.

    That is the issue, it wouldn’t be any different if the guy was homeless or dressed in a fancy suit and wearing a rolex. He and his dog were blocking the front door of your house and wouldn’t move so you could get inside.

    That is exactly something the police should care about, and if they are too busy exactly what a private security or neighborhood watch should be able to help with.

    You aren’t bitching about panhandlers on the boardwalk, you are expressing concern about someone preventing you from entering your own home. Totally justified.

  17. Lucinda, I was talking about neighborhood watches in the last part of my comment, not her trespass issues. People should stop looking for trouble & mind their own business. Seriously, who has time to look out their window all day & report on every little thing or person they see? Ridiculous.

  18. I’m sorry, Tara. I wasn’t trying to say you handled the situation wrong, only that I think your understandable fear came from the fact that someone was trespassing and that maybe identifying him as homeless is sort of red herring and a politically charged red herring.

    My remark had nothing to do with how you handled things. I’m sorry if it read that way.

  19. Hey Tara,

    Great Post! I formed a neighborhood watch in my neighborhood and was able to drop crime drastically just from getting neighbors informed and on the streets.

    I set-up Venice on SeeClickFix.(A tool we created to allow citizens to report to government and each other issues in their community.) I don’t think any block watches in LA are using the tool yet so we’d be happy to see you guys pilot it.) http://seeclickfix.com/venice_los-angeles

    Neighbors can report issues to eachother and 311 with their iPhone or via the web.

    Go to http://seeclickfix.com/venice_los-angeles and click “follow” to receive alerts in Venice. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.

    Recently we have had neighbors form a block watch from the site, encourage more police in their neighborhood and get better lighting in areas where muggings were occurring.
    Currently only 311 in Los Angeles is receiving alerts but you can sign up your local police manager to receive alerts as well.

    Anyone can shoot me an email at ben@seeclickfix.com with questions.

    Power to the Community!

  20. CC – that “mind their own business” mentality can sometimes result in people being hurt and killed, because people want to “mind their own business” and “not get involved”. There’s a difference between being nosy and watching out for other people.

  21. Hey Lucinda,

    I apologize. It is my own product but I use it for exactly this purpose so I thought it was apropo. Feel free to delete the post. I signed up your council and police to receive alerts by the way.

  22. Yeah, & 99% of them are just NOSY. Oh & on a similar note, I can’t stand those “good samaritans” who try to act like they’re helping by calling 9-1-1, but then don’t really stop to see what’s going on or have any credible information to give the police. If that’s your “good act”, don’t even bother. Waste of time.

  23. CC: Your narrow view of what a neighborhood watch does is incredibly ignorant. The main strength of most watches comes from building up communication among a neighborhood to be able to assess actual problems, discuss with each other stuff that seems out place, etc. And they actually reduce the number of 911 calls.

  24. Tara-

    Sorry to hear of your incident and I get that you were wary (totally understandable even if you were a single unpregnant man), but I am confused by your actions.

    You arrived home and:

    1. Asked a homeless guy to move. He did not.
    2. You waited ONE AND A HALF hours for the police. Who did not come.
    3. Finally, you turned on your high beams & yelled and the guy shuffled off.

    Why didn’t you flick your high beams or ask a neighbor for help BEFORE you called the cops?

  25. CC,

    The strength in neighborhood watches comes from distributing information sources and increasing sensors in the community.

    Having a strong network of neighbors who can make a better collective decision about whether something is really suspicious and inform each other that they already alerted police can greatly reduce police dependency and feeling of safety in a neighborhood.

  26. libertad – I’m not sure why you assume that I didn’t take all your suggested actions, the way you worded your question is insulting and it really comes across like you think I’m a dumbass. I’ll indulge you anyway.

    When I first got home and saw there was a man in my driveway I put my lights on him and asked, yelled, told him to move. He grunted and wouldn’t move. I asked again. And Again. And AGAIN.

    I called my landlord, she was out of town. She called her boyfriend, he was out of town. My neighbors are all in apartments and I don’t know their info, hence my request for a neighborhood watch so I can get their info.

    Some friends from the other parts of town offered to come help me. I didn’t want to bother them coming from far away. Many people said to call the police for help so I took their advice.

    I waited so long because each time I called the LAPD dispatch back they said the squad car was on it’s way. Throughout that entire time I would yell out of my window to the man to please leave and the man wouldn’t move. It wasn’t until I called the dispatch back on the 3rd or 4th try that the Police said that they were detained for an indefinite amount of time.

    I decided to try again with my high beams because I was sick of waiting, it was late and I was tired. Thankfully it worked.

    FYI – this is my last comment on this thread.

  27. I’ve had to call the LAPD twice, about 10 years ago when I was living in Crestview (which is apparently now called Reynier Park, or Cadillac, or the bad side of Robertson near Beverlywood). Once was for a really bad fistfight that was going on in the middle of the street, once was for a hit-and-run accident where the driver smashed into a parked car…then took off only to smash into another car down the block before driving off. Both times the police never came.

  28. Advice to anyone: if you find a unknown individual sleeping on your property CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY. This notion that you should try and be polite about the matter and try and nudge them or ask a neighbor to put themselves in harms way, seems incredibly ludicrous… especially if one is pregnant and/or unarmed or alone.

  29. @Touchy Tara-

    I didn’t assume you didn’t take those actions. I simply read what you wrote which was:

    “I called out of my car to the man bundled in his blanket to “please leave now.” He merely grunted.”

    Your revised version of events is quite different than what you initially wrote. The problem in wording lies not in my comment, but in your own writing – and what’s insulting is your attacking commenters because your account was incomplete. Next time you take up people’s time to read your long blog entry, just be accurate and don’t ASSume that readers will fill in the blanks for you.

  30. liberated. Not touchy, just find it incredibly sad that people such as yourself don’t see the big picture and choose to delve into a detail rather than the whole point, which again, was about banding together with my neighbors to form a Neighborhood Watch as opposed to relying on the police for everything because they are incredibly busy. See title of post.

  31. My experience w/ neighborhood watches comes from talking to the idiots when they call in, reporting every little insignificant thing going on in their neighborhood. I repeat – get a life.

  32. I guess the real point here is that it never hurts to know your neighbors better. I tend to agree with the above – Neighborhood Watches, while well intentioned, tend to be nosy and overreactive to smaller problems. Ultimately something I’ve found to be lost on a bigger metropolitan center is the desire to have anything to do with our neighbors. It’s these kinds of situations, where we’re at our most vulnerable in or around our own homes, that knowing a friendly face can really help.

    Less posting on the internet about the problem, more inviting neighbors over for coffee.

  33. @Ben-

    “Less posting on the internet about the problem, more inviting neighbors over for coffee.”

    So true.

    If you pull up to a potential problem in your driveway, your neighbor is your best bet. I’m friends with all my neighbors and it is the most secure sense of security.

  34. One thing we have found in our neighborhood is that sometimes the posting on the Internet can get neighbors to know each other.

    Block watches have been formed as a result of the website I run as well as neighbors meeting after reporting the same suspicious activities who had lived next door to each other for years.

    Many of us have been glued to more isolated worlds for years. The Internet can help bring communities out of it when the conversations are local.

    I do challenge you guys to try out the tool in Venice and see what kind of results you get.

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