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Police Cracking Down On Homeless, Renegade Vendors On Venice Beach

VENICE (CBS) — Growing complaints from business owners and residents along the Venice Beach boardwalk have prompted police to weed out homeless camps and renegade vendors. But the recent crackdown has its critics.

Millions of tourists visit Venice Beach and its ocean-front walk each year.

"Venice Beach is very famous, Hulk Hogan, you know, lifting weights here. Sting -- we're wrestling fans, so yes, it's the place to go," said tourist James Markidas.

The Markidas family was visiting from Rochester, New York.

"Walk the boardwalk and see all the artists and the different things that they have," Lisa Markidas said.

One of the things they have is a beach battle brewing with the city and LAPD started to crack down on the homeless, implementing a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew, as well as taming what some call vulturous vendors.

"Well the difference now is that the police are always around here," said Lucero Villegas, who works at Double Shaka, a boardwalk bikini shop.

"There's people that actually pay for, you know, the place, the rent and they don't pay for any of it," she said.

Vivianne Robinson, who is known for writing names on rice, has a free booth on one side and a paid spot on the other, where she sells her rice in necklaces.

"Well basically they want to just make it for the artists and entertainers like it used to be in the old days. Because it was starting to get commercialized on this side, which wasn't fair to the shop owners, who pay tons of rent," Robinson said.

She said that she is happy with the changes that came earlier this year.

"There's only so much space. We're fighting over spaces," she added.

But the curfew comes with controversy by the California Coastal Commission, which says enforcing the curfew violates the state beach access rules.

"They've been like trying to wipe out everybody," said Jerome Bourassa, who is homeless and has been living on Venice Beach for years.

"People have bad circumstances, you know, in their lives. And they have to like live out here, Bourassa said.
The Coastal Commission told us that they have been meeting with the city for months and wanted public input on the curfew.

But police said that the curfew has been on the books since 1989 and recent enforcement has cut down on crime at Venice Beach.

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