Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is blasting “career elected politicians” who he says are “seeking higher office” for failing to adequately address the increase of homeless encampments in the region, particularly in the City of L.A.
Villanueva walked the Venice Beach boardwalk with the Sheriff’s Department’s Homeless Outreach Services Team on Tuesday and described the pop-up tents that have sprouted up throughout the world-famous tourist destination as “a hot mess.” He spoke with residents of the neighborhood, business owners, and people experiencing homelessness about his plan to “compassionately reclaim and regulate public space for the community.”
For over 170 years, the Sheriff has been the elected official tasked with handling law and order in the county. I hear the cries for help loud and clear from the community.
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) May 26, 2021
At last count in January 2020, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimated that there were approximately 2,000 homeless people in the Venice neighborhood — a 57% increase over the previous year. Officials did not conduct a count in 2021 due to the pandemic, but experts expect those numbers to continue climbing into 2023. Villanueva said part of the influx has been drifters lured from other states.
Many longtime Venice residents say the situation is worse than they have ever witnessed.
Wow. A good friend of mine in CA sent me the video below. What a powerful, moving indictment of the failed policies in Venice Beach producing poverty, drug addiction, homelessness, public defecation & rampant violence.
This is WRONG. We can do better.https://t.co/wimy6lesqB
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 21, 2021
“My job is to let local law enforcement and local city government handle their problems,” Villanueva told one man who expressed concern about a recent shooting in the area. “If they’re not doing it, I’ve got to step in at some point, and I’ve got to decide, it’s not working. We need more help.”
While engaging with another community member, Villanueva accused L.A. city leaders of pursuing strategies that prevent the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) from fulfilling its public safety mission. He said he had “complete faith in LAPD if they’re not handcuffed, hogtied, and gagged.”
“But when you handcuff them, they no longer have the capacity to regulate public space,” he added. “So they’re dealing always with the aftermath.”
The visit followed a tweet from Villanueva last week that read, “I can only sit on the sidelines for so long, waiting patiently for the city and county to do something about homelessness.” The sheriff posted the message on May 18, the same day the Los Angeles Fire Department announced that a homeless man had been arrested on suspicion of starting the Palisades Fire about 18 miles west of L.A. that burned more than 1,150 acres. The blaze resulted in mandatory evacuation orders for about 1,000 people, threatening about 500 homes.
According to recent LAFD data, more than half of fires reported from January through March were related to homelessness.
Villanueva appeared on KFI radio’s “John and Ken Show” on Tuesday afternoon and said his department planned to focus on several encampments in the City of L.A., including areas along the 101 Freeway, around Olvera Street downtown, and the Venice neighborhood.
“Historically, we defer to local mayors, local police departments, local city councils to get the job done,” he told KFI. “But when they fail to do it, I’m going to have to step in because we are at the point of no return now.”
“We’ve just got to read the tea leaves and realize that we’ve got a huge problem on our hands,” Villanueva continued, “and the last thing we need are gutless politicians who are refusing to do what needs to be done to resolve the problem.”