BORDERLINE — A recent string of crimes along the southern edge of the city have rattled the nerves of some neighbors who say that despite incidents over the past several weeks, they generally consider the small community to be safe.
The Santa Monica Police Department met last week with the Borderline Neighborhood Group (BNG) to address the crimes that have hit the area around the Venice border, including a robbery at Marine Market and a shooting at Longfellow Street on June 1. The organization represents residents living between Marine and Ozone streets and Lincoln Boulevard and Highland Avenue.
The victims in the shooting reported seeing a white four-door compact car driving suspiciously slowly toward them where they were playing basketball, firing several shots before fleeing. Nobody was injured.
The two suspects were described as being Hispanic males, between the ages of 17-19 with short dark hair. Police have not determined if the shooting is gang-related.
There were few details available about the robbery at Marine Market but a perpetrator has apparently been apprehended, according to a recap of the SMPD meeting sent by the Borderline Neighborhood Group.
Some residents said they believe the crimes are isolated incidents and not indicative of any patterns of illicit activity forming in the Borderline Neighborhood.
“We’ve seen this neighborhood go up and down, primarily when we first moved here because of how close it was to Venice and Oakwood used to be a lot worse than it is now,” Amy Hopper, the social chair of the BNG, said. “The crime seemed just south of us and we would hear helicopters all the time.”
Hopper, a 12-year-resident, said the neighborhood is safe and guarded by a close-knit community with residents who look out for one another.
“Our park is constantly being used by kids and families and dogs and this is a super wonderful place to live,” she said. “We just had these random incidents.”
Lt. PJ Guido said the area presents challenges in terms of patrolling because of its location on the very outer limits of the city. He added that the Borderline Neighborhood Group acts as a watchdog and maintains good communication with the SMPD when crimes do occur.
Residents have also spoken of other crimes that have taken place in the area, including drug dealing, prostitution, graffiti and car burglaries.
Car burglaries have been on the rise citywide and is not unique to the Borderline Neighborhood, Guido said. Some have speculated that the reason could be tied to the economy.
Guido said that police have stepped up a presence in the area.
Dennis Woods, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade, said that illegal activities such as prostitution have been taking place on Longfellow for years. He suspects the small street is attractive for such crimes because it sits close to Lincoln Boulevard but isn’t as visible as the thoroughfare.
“The women can walk off Lincoln and be picked up and negotiate a deal and take off,” he said. “We’re convenient for that because you can’t look down the street and see it because it’s so parallel to Lincoln.”
He said projects like the street improvements to Longfellow, which will create a more pedestrian friendly environment by adding landscaping and narrowing the travel way, will help deter crime.
In the years that he has lived in the neighborhood, Woods has seen it all, witnesses sexual acts, picking up needles and condoms and seeing drug deals out of several vacant houses that have since been boarded up.
“What’s really important is that the Borderline Neighborhood Group is very proactive in maintaining a family neighborhood with a safe park,” he said. “We definitely have forged a strong relationship (with the SMPD) to help mitigate the problem both on the enforcement side and on physically designing out the problems.”