Echo Park - The closure of Echo Park Lake and the removal of its sprawling homeless encampment in late March was followed by a significant drop in crime in the immediate area, according to LAPD figures.
It's not clear, however, if the decline in crime was directly related to the closure of the park on March 25. But the drop in criminal activity near the lake was large enough to prompt the LAPD to deploy patrols to higher crime areas.
Some people living nearby have noticed a change. Some have not.
“We have noticed a decrease in the number of people coming into our front yard or that of our neighbors, and of people wandering around on the street looking high or otherwise erratic behavior,” said Darcy Harris, former Chair of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council, who lives near the west side of the lake. “It feels like reports of local petty crime and confrontations coming from the citizen app and LAPD reports have gone down too.”
A man living by Harris, however, expressed a different view.
“It seems like there’s been an increase of shady people in the neighborhood because they’re not allowed to sleep in the park anymore,” said Pascal de Maria. Even as recently as last week, someone was camping out on his front yard, he said.
Crime Trends Around Echo Park Lake
The months leading up to the park's closure saw some crime hot spots pop up near the lake. For example, the corner of Echo Park and Laguna avenues, near the lake's boathouse, was the scene of at least six assaults with a deadly weapon between December and early March.
In the month of March alone, there were three assaults with a deadly weapon (not counting one against an officer during confrontations with demonstrators on March 25), a robbery and a burglary within a quarter mile of the boathouse, according to LAPD statistics on CrimeMapping.com. All these took place before the park's closure.
However, in the three weeks following the closure, only a handful of crimes had been reported in the same area, none of which were violent.
A review of LAPD data about three weeks before and after the closure by Crosstown yields similar results.
“It is much quieter"
“It is much quieter, less litter, trash, less public drinking and drugs,” said John Berry, who has lived in the 700 block of Echo Park Avenue for 14 years. Before the closure, Berry described the southeastern portion of the park -- across the lake from the main encampment - as a "party spot" with little law enforcement. "The crowds [were] here because it's a space where they can drink, do drugs with impunity.”
The lake and park are now fenced off from the neighborhood by a green construction screen that encircles the property. Officials have said the park will remain closed until repairs are completed but have not provided a reopening date.
“With the park closed I’m sure there have been less incidents since it is really quiet now," said one lakeside resident, who has been less likely to walk around the area since the park closed. "A fenced-off park is not a destination.”
LAPD shifts patrols away from Echo Park Lake
Because of the drop in crime, police patrol cars have been shifted to other areas where crime is higher, said Capt. Alfonso Lopez of the LAPD Rampart Division.
The Eastsider reached out to advocates of the lake's homeless encampment -- including Knock LA, Street Watch LA, and Ground Game LA -- for comment on the drop in crime. But none have responded.
While the drop in crime is welcomed, many are also looking forward to the park reopening.
“All great American cities have great parks,” said Darrell Kunitomi, who ran a fishing club for kids at Echo Park Lake on Sunday mornings. “We can’t lose them.”