In a joint town hall for residents and media, Rep. Mike Garcia and Sheriff Alex Villanueva discussed multiple issues facing the residents of the 25th Congressional District, from crime, to homelessness, to recent changes in the criminal justice system.
Speaking to the issues facing his department, Villanueva said he and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had been struggling against government efforts to defund law enforcement and create laws that make it more difficult for his department to do its job.
Villanueva went on to say that violent crimes in Los Angeles County have seen an uptick since recent policies have been implemented by both the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón.
He added that the uptick is due to the “privatization” of security and law enforcement programs, removing deputies from details and responsibilities that include things such as school security, certain social services and mental health.
“Their whole notion is that cops are evil and need to be eliminated from society (for) the sake of a safer community,” said Villanueva. “And that narrative is absolutely false and driven by opportunists, the Black Lives Matter movement, and in L.A. in particular, the antifa crowd.”
Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, echoed the position, and said nonprofits are generating revenue and creating jobs and income for people based on an industry of homelessness, whether that be in building lower-income housing that ends up not being for lower-income individuals, or on the drug/mental rehabilitation side.
“Some of these folks are being caught; some of these folks are being charged with fraud and waste, abuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Garcia. “But the bottom line is that this has become a cottage industry, both on the home building side and then also on these organizations that claim to be doing the humane thing and helping the homeless.”
“Within the city and county of L.A., they $6.5-$7 billion from 2011-2021, that’s a 10-year problem ….and they saw the problem grow more than 100%,” Villanueva added.
Garcia discussed, during a separate media conference, that his office had become aware of a homeless woman living in Castaic who has been the subject of social media conversation online in recent weeks. He said while he wants people to remember that “people are human beings,” they should be held accountable should they commit a crime.
“When we bring them in, if they have mental health disorders, they need to be given the resources to get better or help them cope, especially if there’s drug addiction overlaid on top of that,” said Garcia, later adding: “I think my wife’s had conversations with that lady in Castaic, and there are situations where, compassion and looking out for human beings and offering to help when we can, but we’ve got to be eyes wide open that not everyone wants the help.”
Turning to his budget, Villanueva said LASD suffered a budget cut of approximately 1,200 budgeted positions and only 71% of patrol station personnel is now available, relative to previous levels.
Both Garcia and Villanueva went on to heavily criticize L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón, for his various policies that he implemented when he first came into office, which lessened sentences for a number of infractions, heavily limited the bail schedule, and resulted in thousands of cases being dismissed in L.A. County.
“Our department alone, we registered 5,932 cases that we investigated, made an arrest, did the followup investigation, presented a completed case to the D.A. and exclusively because of his special directives, they were not filed,” said Villanueva.