Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

City Under Siege: Ride Along with Santa Monica Police Reveals True State of (Lack of) Safety on Our Streets

Widely publicized guitar thief is back on the streets, released without consequences - maybe he'll steal from you next, or worse


Guitar thief, arrested, released, out smoking drugs the same day of arrest. And why not?

May 31, 2024 - During the safety meeting last Thursday I asked the POA Chairman Cody Green, in front 5 sitting council-members, how many police we need in Santa Monica. Without caveats he said 300 (we now have around 225). I was reminded of the defense of Thermopylae, a narrow pass that was held by 300 Spartans for three days against a vast Persian army, because we too are a city under siege.

I spent part of my Memorial Day weekend on a ride-along with one of our current Spartans desperately holding the line: Sergeant Suzie Wessels, who is in charge of the team of only 4 officers on duty that holiday Saturday. Four officers in the Downtown Services Unit on a day with tens of thousands of visitors! I already knew our city is laden with addicts, dealers, and criminals, but what I saw shocked even me:

* In the notorious 7-11, where Sergeant Wessels always buys her energy drinks to create a bit of a police presence, our first encounter was with a huge man who asked her: "I just got out of prison and I want to know if it's true the government puts tracking devices in our blood." Sergeant Wessels flatly responded: "That's not true." He was exuding so much instability we sat in the car watching until he left, out to wander my neighborhood. The brief encounter summarized the "homeless" who are washing up in Santa Monica, right out of prison, mentally ill or addicted, with no prospects or skills, ready to game our generosity or prey on anybody vulnerable, including a 73 year-old woman last week.

Wanted by LAPD for Assault with a deadly weapon. Getting high, wandering our streets

* In an alley near the train, an individual was observed drinking beer in public with a meth pipe in hand. Wessel's team arrested him, ran him for warrants, and he was wanted by the LAPD for assault with a deadly weapon. When he was loaded into the back of the patrol car, he became violent, kicking and screaming. Apparently the LAPD wanted him so badly they came out and got him, something that rarely happens. Does he just "need free housing" in Santa Monica? For a quick and excellent summation of the bankruptcy of this argument by our state reps, and certain council members, read: Violent Attacks Demonstrate Continuing Failure of Crime Policies.

* A block from the 7-11, and two from my house, Sergeant Wessels spotted the person who stole the guitar from Vice-mayor Negrete's music store within a day of her father's death (condolences, Lana). The police had found him, and arrested him, but because of Gascon's policies and State Laws, he was released the same day. On Saturday, he was getting high with another addict in my neighborhood, no doubt getting ready to steal anything that isn't nailed down. This is pure policy failure.

* Drug dealers spotted throughout the day. The sergeant pointed out Carlos, a known drug dealer out on "community release," riding his bike. We were on foot at that point, walking the promenade, and she called her officers to try to grab him because he often travels with a gun, but he disappeared. When I showed Sergeant Wessels the picture of an addict doing drugs next to the comatose, mentally ill woman still in the carport across from mine (3 weeks and counting!), she immediately said: He's a known dealer. What's happening in my alley, with a rotating cast of addicts bedding down with this poor woman, is so depraved it seems like it's in a different country.

Arthur Jeon

Known dealer cutting drugs in the carport across from ours. A mentally ill woman rocks back and forth in the pink blanket behind him. This happens every night, with a different man.

There was so much more, as the police try to keep a lid on a city inundated. While they pride themselves on being pro-active, every cop I spoke with said they need more sworn officers to shorten response times and allow them to do more than react to emergencies. This would also give residents confidence to report all the behavior we don't bother to anymore. We shouldn't have to get used to this dangerous disorder, something even Council-woman Parra said she recently did, because she didn't report a deranged addict that threw rocks at her (she told the story to the council and that she already had to call the police twice in 30 days). Yes, we feel sheepish about the right to walk down the street without rocks being thrown at us, that's how far from normal Santa Monica is these days.

Right now, the department relies heavily on expensive overtime: I spoke with one officer who worked an 18-hour day that included protecting our council's debate about the Middle East at a cost of thousands in overtime. How utterly outrageous, this grandiose fiddling while Rome burns. We ALL need to wake up. The city is in the middle of a mental illness, addiction, and criminality crisis far out proportion to our responsibility and capability. Every prospective and current council-member should do a minimum of three ride-alongs to actually understand that this is not a matter of building more housing. That's a naive "someday" sop to developers and it actually belies an anti-police ideology, one that is finally being rejected in Blue Cities from Portland to New York. Will we?

I walk the streets a lot, with my dogs, as exercise, to get to the gym, etc. but I have NEVER seen any of the vaunted non-profits supposedly making contact with this street population. Ever. When I asked the sergeant, she said that she hadn't either. Ever. The only way to hold the line is by arresting and running warrants for every addict who enters our city, plops down in our park, and lights up, making it unusable for residents. Nothing in this city will change unless we drain the swamp of dealers, who draw the addicts, and the subsequent lawlessness that is responsible for 87% of police calls, also drawing hardcore criminals and psychotics to our town, as we've seen with the recent horrible attacks. Some naive ideologues act like prison is the worst thing in the world-it isn't. Living and dying on the streets is far worse; trust me, I've worked in prisons and heard it from convicts themselves. We coddle the criminals and ignore the victims, which right now is every resident walking the streets.

So let's listen to the experts in our incredibly professional police department; we need 300 officers committed to 100% proactive policing that weeds out the violent criminals with warrants, or for breaking parole, and before they attack a resident. For too long this city been held hostage to a small but vocal anti-police minority, while we put out the welcome mat for the worst of humanity. Elections are coming. A commitment to 300 officers should be a litmus test asked of every candidate, and demanded of our current council NOW!

No more excuses. Get your priorities straight and find the money. Restore order to the streets and watch the city thrive. You know, put residents first and succeed at the basics of good governance.


Reader Comments(3)

smdemandsafety writes:

Santa Monica is building a Homeless Housing & Services at 1217 Euclid for the chronically mentally ill and feeding programs into a residential neighborhood. 2.5 blocks away from Lincoln Middle School & PS1 Pluralistic school. Removing the public parking lot for the businesses and community. All while inviting in 1000's of mentally ill homeless for their meds, substance abuse and counseling. When provided services most stay in the area wandering through the Wilshire corridor and up Euclid to Montana. They are going to completely blow up the entire neighborhood, endangering all residents, especially kids. Santa Monica has lost all common sense. We are going to need more than 300 officers if they invite this into the heart of the city. Please help us advocate for more common sense and sign our petition.

Maurice writes:

I agree 100%.. I've lived in Santa Monica my whole life.. and things have gotten to a crisis point. Drug addicts openly using in our public parks, rampant crime.. my parents house was broken into the other night and I found the intruder still in the house.. we've lived here 25 years and never had anything like this happen. My sisters car was stolen. Santa Monica is a society with no boundaries. Since when did we find it acceptalbe for a public park to be filled with mentally ill drug addicts? A public park is supposed to be a safe place for families and children. We've become far too soft. We need to be arresting people who are using drugs for drug possession and loitering and other offenses. Get themout of our neighborhood. They are not welcome here.. and they didnt come from here.. Most of these people are transients that come from other states and other parts of the city. Enough is enough. Wake up Santa Monica!!

Bobby writes:

88 cities in la county. Santa Monica the only one inviting drug addicts to come to our parks to live, use drugs, and terrorize taxpayers and innocent children. Why are we the only city doing this? Ask David white, city council, and city attorney. Ask them every day why they are inviting non city criminals to come here and terrorize residents.