Crime drifts toward beaches

Venice Beach, other areas, see an increase, even as city experiences a drop

Illustration of crime at the beach


Beaches, like swimming pools, are a quintessential part of life in Los Angeles. As the coronavirus spread across the region, the sand and ocean were also a place of respite for many seeking to escape the Safer at Home order and various business shutdowns. 


Yet the beach was anything but relaxing for a lot of people. There were 313 crimes reported at city beaches during the first 11 months of the year, a 25.5% increase over the same time in 2019, when there were 247, according to Los Angeles Police Department data. This sticks out from an overall 10% drop in crime across the city during the first nine months of the year. 


Crime reports at the beach, 2019 vs. 2020

Graph of increase of beach-related crimes


The greatest number of crime reports was the 50 in August, which was on par with last August, when there were 48. There were much larger discrepancies in later months; the 45 crimes reported in September and the 47 in October are up from the 26 and 21 in the same respective months in 2019. 


The LAPD recorded 105 assaults with a deadly weapon at beaches this year, making up 33.5% of incidents. There were 55 thefts on the beach (17.5% of reports) as well as 42 simple assaults (13%). 


The 313 incidents have already surpassed the 267 total crime reports in 2019. Additionally, it continues an upward trend happening since 2016 when there were 146 incidents.

Reports of crimes taking place at the beach, 2016-2019

Chart of number of crimes at the beach


Venice Beach recorded the most crime reports, with 268, far outpacing the 17 in Pacific Palisades. Yet some in the touristy area believe the figure is even higher.


“I think the 268 incidents is a very low number,” said Vicki Halliday, a resident of Venice. “The boardwalk, at this point, is almost completely lawless at times.”


Halliday said vandalism crimes are rarely reported, and every week numerous cars have their windows broken or mirrors torn off. She said many crimes occur near bridge housing projects and large encampments where people experiencing homelessness reside.  


Captain Paul Vernon, who heads the LAPD’s Compstat division, said the increase is not a surprise, given the large population of people experiencing homelessness at Venice Beach. He believes the increase is also due in part to fewer officers patrolling the area, as he said personnel were moved to address protests that erupted after the May killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 


“Police stops are down 26% this year,” said Vernon. “One consequence of a lack of police presence, which results in a reduction of persons’ concerns over being stopped by police, is a rise in criminal activity.”


Vernon also noted that during warm periods some people leave their doors or windows unlocked, and that opportunistic burglars are entering vulnerable homes. 


“With more people home during COVID restrictions, it’s understandable that more burglars would be confronted by more residents,” he said. “This comes down to reminding residents to close and lock doors and windows.”


City Councilmember Mike Bonin, whose 11th District includes Venice Beach, said in a statement that his office is working with LAPD Chief Michel Moore, the department’s Pacific Division, and the city Department of Recreation and Parks on the matter, because, “everyone deserves to feel safe in their neighborhood.” 


Bonin cited recent repairs and upgrades to high-tech security cameras in the Ocean Front Walk area, and to retaining 10 officers in Venice who would normally be redeployed after summer ends.


“Looking further into the future, I believe we can keep our neighborhoods much safer by investing in programs and services that prevent crime, instead of simply responding to it,” said Bonin in the statement. 


How we did it: We examined publicly available crime data from the Los Angeles Police Department from Jan. 1-Nov.30, 2020 compared with the same time period last year. Learn more about our data here.


LAPD data only reflects crimes that are reported to the department, not how many crimes actually occurred. In making our calculations, we rely on the data the LAPD makes publicly available. LAPD may update past crime reports with new information, or recategorize past reports. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database.


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