Sheriff Alex Villanueva spoke to a crowd of residents and business owners in Venice Thursday night. Sheriff’s officials told me the invitation-only event was organized locally to thank the Sheriff and the department for its work to clean up the Venice Beach and Boardwalk.
The evening began with a video sizzle reel of the department’s history and then the sheriff opened up by thanking key players in the homeless outreach operation. He also took jabs at the County Board of Supervisors, the LA City Council/Mayor, and Governor Newsom. Villanueva calls the collection of politicians the ‘trifecta’ and labels them the ‘architects of failure’.
At one point the crowd gasped when Villanueva pointed out that if he were to get 100% cooperation from city leaders and the county, his department could clean up all the homeless camps in the county in 90-days. He said that didn’t include homeless camps in riverbeds because they are isolated and don’t pose an immediate threat to residential areas.
The sheriff said he has directed all his patrol deputies to keep a list on vacant lots, empty buildings and other properties that could be used to house the homeless, offer shelter and safe parking for those in RV’s.
The Sheriff introduced Lt. Jeff Deedrick, the person leading the department’s homeless unit, known as HOST (Homeless Outreach Services Team). Deedrick said the operation in Venice Beach was challenging but rewarding. He told the crowd that there’s still a lot of work to be done and though they are spread pretty thin, they’ll keep working until everyone in the county has a safe place to stay.
Captain McBride from the Narcotics Bureau told the crowd there was a 13-day operation to root out drug dealers in the Venice Beach area. During that operation there were 53 arrests and mitigation to slow and stop the distribution of drugs on the streets and in the tents on the Boardwalk. The Captain said detectives discovered meth, fentanyl, heroin and cocaine.
The Sheriff took questions from the audience and also accepted a lot of praise. There was plenty of applause and people wanted to know if they could be assured the tents wouldn’t pop up again. Villanueva simply said, “Not on my watch”.
At the end of his appearance, he pointed out that in the 1970’s Rancho Palos Verdes successfully disincorporated itself from the city of Los Angeles. As a result, they became part of unincorporated LA County, which means the Sheriff’s Department’s Lomita Station is their primary law enforcement agency. The Sheriff coyly ended with, “I will have nothing to do with that political process if any community decides to go that route…..I’m just saying….”.