Police chief has promised a Pier patrol detail over the weekends - is it too little too late?
A fight that broke out among pier vendors on Sunday afternoon highlights a persistent and dangerous problem at the Santa Monica landmark: criminal gang involvement in illegal street vending.
Several police officers were called after a fight began in the parking lot just north of the Santa Monica Pier at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon. After the fight was stopped, with great difficulty, six individuals were eventually cited and released. According to a highly placed government official, all of the individuals involved in the fight were part of the Murcia family gang.
In late September, SMPD were called, again on a Sunday afternoon, to break up a fight between two street vendors. In this case, a Murcia family member was after a vendor who was not part of their group. One of the combatants cut the other with an umbrella and was actually charged: assault with a deadly weapon.
The Murcia family brings in all of the vendors who operate - illegally - on the pier. According to the city official, every day members of the Murcia family bring 30-50 carts to Santa Monica, where they disperse to the Pier, the Boardwalk and Palisades Park. Although a 2019 law, SB 946, the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, decriminalizes street vending in public places, it allows local governments to enact their own regulations, and Santa Monica did so. Vendors must obtain permits to operate on the pier, get a California Seller's Permit, and if selling food, obtain an L.A. County Health Permit. City permit fees for operating on the Pier are as high as $1500/month during the summer. None of the Murcia family's vendors have permission to operate on the pier - yet they do so every day. Apparently, vendors must pay a required fee to the Murcia family for this service and their protection. If they do not, they will be beaten.
If you are wondering what happened to the Code Enforcement officers the city assigned to the Pier, they now refuse to set foot on the Pier, citing the dangerous conditions created by the Murcia family, who are believed to be involved in human and sex trafficking, as well. Code Enforcement officers have been assaulted, threatened and intimidated by Murcia family members. In an Open letter to the City Council, the Code Enforcement officers write, "Today the Pier, and its surrounding areas, are under the control of the Murcia crime family. We have been assaulted many times. Our lives, and our families' lives, have been threatened by members of the Murcia family." Murcia family members have reportedly thrown pepper in the faces of code officers. They have approached Santa Monica Code Enforcement officers with guns in their waistbands. They have claimed to know the location of family members and threatened them.
If you are wondering what happened to the police department, they say the operation of illegal vending carts on the Pier is a code enforcement and not a law enforcement issue. They will not wade into the fray.
If you are wondering what happened to the fire department and the concern they should have about the operation of open fires on the wooden pier, they simply won't show up to inspect the situation. They were asked to do so, and they did not.
One city resident who visited the Pier two weeks ago counted over a dozen hot dog vendors - all illegal, with unpermitted butane tanks. There were an estimated 7,000 visitors on the Pier, and not one single safety officer of any kind - police, fire, or otherwise.
The lack of willingness to enforce the law and protect the public would be truly astonishing if it were not, unfortunately, completely predictable. This city is composed of people who want to save the world - but have no interest in cleaning up their own backyard.