Advocates for the homeless are steaming over what they say is a homeless crackdown in one of L.A.'s last bastions of free living — Venice.

The last two nights along the boardwalk and beyond LAPD officers have been contacting homeless people, warning them they can't sleep there, according to David Busch of the group Working Democracy!

According to the LAPD …

… what they're doing is “outreach.”

LAPD Pacific Division Capt. Brian P. Johnson told the Weekly today:

From the police department's perspective this is really about homeless and community outreach. I don't like to refer to it as a crackdown.

So for the past few nights, and for the foreseeable future, cops will be contacting homeless folks on the boardwalk, letting them know that, according to a recently clarified city rule, they're on park land and can't be there from midnight to 5 a.m., Johnson said.

So far the effort has included clergy and social workers who try to find proper beds for the homeless, he said.

But Busch says the cops and their friends were a little more pushy than that, asking for folks' Social Security numbers and attempting to take photos of them.

Both sides agree no arrests have been made … so far.

Johnson says the effort stems from community complaints about an influx of homeless during this Great Recession. In particular he acknowledges a wave of younger homeless people from places like the Pacific Northwest.

Busch says the action is part of a larger effort to protect the interests of gentrification in Venice (he notes Google moved into its Venice offices last year).

And, by claiming the boardwalk as park land, he says the city and cops are trying to get around “a 2003 injunction that prohibits LAPD officers from indiscriminately stopping and searching the homeless without adequate justification,” in the words of the ACLU.

Police aren't supposed to be rousting people simply for sleeping on a sidewalk, for example, but whether or not that rule applies just to Skid Row or all of L.A. seems up for debate.

But Busch claims that homeless people have moved east from the beach in reaction to the police action, populating streets like 3rd Avenue. He says officers have followed and have continued to roust them:

I think it's part of a move to segregate the beach. The new form of segregation in L.A. is not by color but by your wallet.

Busch's group is staging a street party tonight on 3rd near Rose Avenue to raise awareness about the crackdown / outreach.

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[@dennisjromero / / @LAWeeklyNews]

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