Venice 311 Founder Launches Koreatown 311
Alex Thompson, that very controversial lady behind the Venice 311 police blog and Twitter account, has begun to expand her online empire -- just as she told the LA Weekly she would in "Clamor Over Venice 311," before she quit speaking to us halfway into the reporting process.
Koreatown311.org appears to have launched around the beginning of last week. Only a couple items are posted on the blog -- including a promo piece for the LAPD Olympic Division's upcoming Fall Carnival -- but the Twitter feed of reports coming over the police scanner is in full effect.
Thompson is one busy Samaritan:
Unless she's trained a Koreatown sidekick to follow her lead one division to the east, she has apparently taken it upon herself to keep both the Pacific and Olympic Divisions up to speed on every move the LAPD makes. (Though the tone of the Tweets is much blander than usual.)
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"It's nutty," Thompson told us in an August interview. "You just have a scanner with you all the time. It takes a certain kind of person to want to do this. The challenge that [police] have, which is our challenge too, is how do you make [everyday crime] interesting and engaging for people? ... I've made it a form of entertainment. I'm not thrilled about that, but it works."
Thompson's snarky, hands-on approach to reporting police activity has earned her both fans and enemies in Venice, where she lives in a small apartment along the Boardwalk. The hot, ambitious blonde -- a former star of the '90s tech bubble -- has been known to rush to crime scenes, go on sweeping graffiti-removal runs in her orange cart and even call up cops herself when anything smells fishy.
But the job has proven quite alienating.
Local journalist Michael Linder said of Thompson, "The tone of her tweets became decidedly pro-cop, against entire swaths of the Venice population, including skateboarders. Suddenly there was all this fear."
And one of the crimefighter's only close associates, Tony Vera -- who stuck up for her adamantly in the LA Weekly profile -- seems to have joined the growing crowd of skeptics within the last 24 hours. Among his angry Tweets:
"try to keep your word in life thats all u got it took me a long time to find that out"
"u take my money and dont do my website god will take care of you i know that"
"i must have been out of my mind to be your friend"
Vera, an ex-paparazzo who just settled a big lawsuit with Mike Tyson, used to do all the videography for Thompson's website. But now, he Tweets, "im not working at all with venice 311." He says he'll only be posting on his own website from here on out.
Thompson had big dreams for the "311" brand when we sat down with her in August.
She explained that a guy from the Wilshire Center Business Improvement District had called her up and told her that Koreatown desperately needed the same kind of interactive crimefighting site Thompson had set up in L.A.'s zaniest beach town. (We've contacted the group for comment.)
At the time, Thompson planned on eventually launching "311" offshoots in Hollywood, Koreatown, the LAPD's Rampart Division and Hancock Park.
"I've made the offer that if any neighborhood wants to do this, I will set the entire thing up and do the hosting under our umbrella, and they can populate the site with their individual community news," she said. All a neighborhood would need was to "have somebody at least listen a good portion of the day to the scanner feed."
Thompson seemed particularly fascinated with the type of crime that goes down in Koreatown, as opposed to to the kooky drunks and petty thefts of Venice Beach.
"All these Asian people walk around with $8,000 in cash. It's like an Asian thing," she said.
And even juicier: "The dirt in Koreatown is there's this crazy, high-end, bouncing nightclub scene," Thomson told us. "You can't get in without a $400 bottle of liquor."
But since the clubs "pump a lot of money into the Business Improvement District " -- the same entity that requested a Koreatown 311 -- she said she suggested they might work with the nightclub scene, and recruit clubgoers as an audience.
The whirlwind behind Venice 311 won't return our calls today. But we can't wait to see if Koreatown 311 takes off as huge as its mother site did for residents within the LAPD's Pacific Division -- and if Thompson makes as fast of friends with the cops over there.
Outlook good, if the "LAPD Captains Message" on the site's homepage is any indication:
For more on Thompson's own criminal history, read the print story that got us so tangled up in this hyper-local drama in the first place.
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