LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — An uptick in crime has Belmont Shore residents at odds with homeless advocates early Friday morning.
A group of about 50 volunteers gathered in the pre-dawn hours at 2nd Street and Bayshore Avenue to keep an eye out for crime that organizers say has been on an unchecked rise in Belmont Shore. They were met by about 20 protestors across the intersection, calling the neighborhood watchers "vigilantes."
Barry Vince, who organized the anti-crime gathering, says criminal activity in the area has been on a steady rise in recent years. He described people who have been nude in front of kids as they make their way to school, hypodermic needles found on beaches, and a spate of both house and car break-ins.
"This is not an anti-homeless march," Vince said. "We're here to march against criminals and we want the bad guys taken down."
He conceded that his social media post about Friday's gathering may have been taken the wrong way, but the group's anti-crime efforts have "nothing to do really with the homeless."
The protesting group carried signs that said, "End the war on poor," "Long Beach is for everyone," and "Decriminalize poverty."
Elizabeth Garcia says she feels strongly about the other group's efforts after seeing social media comments calling homeless people "rats" and "garbage."
"These criminal acts they like to talk about a lot of times is just the criminalization of survival," Garcia said.
The large ranks of homeless is a problem across the state, and Garcia said she doesn't know of any one solution to combat it.
"It's a very complex issue, but we know we need to put the humanity of these people first."
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