Patrons dining in beachside cafés in Venice now have a clear view of what's become one of the city's biggest homeless encampments -- hundreds of tents lining the world-famous Boardwalk.
From the Boardwalk and on surrounding streets, NBC4 viewers have filmed assaults, tent fires and just about every kind of violence -- part of a spike in crime in Venice where the housed and unhoused are often targets.
"It’s like living in a war zone," says Christina T., one of dozens of Venice residents who've reached out to the NBC4 I-Team.
Get Southern California news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC LA newsletters.
For more than a year, LA officials have said they can't touch homeless encampments, citing COVID-19 guidance from the CDC. But then two weeks ago, officials seemingly ignored their own advice, and cleared Echo Park of a large encampment, after outreach workers found housing for about 180 people who had been living in tents in the park.
Now, Venice's housed residents are demanding city officials do the same for the homeless in Venice.
"People need help. They need to get these people housed, or sheltered," Christina T. told NBC4.
While the number of homeless living on the streets of Venice has apparently skyrocketed during the pandemic, reports of crimes have also gone up.
LAPD crime stats from 2020, obtained by the I-Team, show a 31 percent increase in crime reports in Venice compared to 2019, where the suspect was described as homeless.
The unhoused were also increasingly the victims of crime, up 83% in the same time frame, according to LAPD data.
"Every day there are fires, guns, knives, crime. There’s a lot of crime here," said Jack Rivers, who was living in a tent on the Venice Boardwalk when the I-Team interviewed him last October.
Venice residents tell the I-Team they've been emailing and calling their city councilman -- Mike Bonin -- about clearing the tents off their streets and finding housing for the homeless, as the city did in Echo Park. But residents say they've received no response from Bonin.
"I've sent multiple emails a week to the City Councilman, the LAPD and never once have we heard back from the City Council, Venice resident Ashley told NBC4.
For a week, the I-Team also emailed Councilman Bonin for an interview about the homelessness crisis in his district. His Deputy Chief of Staff David Graham-Caso finally emailed back saying "Councilmember Bonin is not available for this interview."
The I-Team also reached out to numerous advocacy and legal aid groups that support the homeless in Venice. No one would speak on camera, but they all said permanent supportive housing is the solution to the crisis on the streets.