Security beefs up on Venice Beach

With a sack full of mini oranges propped around his right shoulder and a skate board half-buried in the sand nearby, Jay Quion sat on top of his wooden drum, beating it away with the entirety of the drum circle. Amongst Quion was a mass of approximately 600 onlookers and drummers in attendance at the Venice Beach Drum Circle. In addition, a heightened level of security was present.

Two police SUV's remained parked along the perimeter of the drum circle with other officers on foot. Numerous citations were given out to those who had possession of alcohol and for disorderly conduct.

Within the past two weeks, there have been two stabbings, one of which proved eventually fatal at the Venice Beach Drum Circle, both believed to be with pocketknives.

Quion has been a regular of the Venice Beach Drum Circle for nearly a year, attending both Saturdays and Sundays.

Though Quion hasn't witnessed any of the recent stabbings, he certainly can understand how the occurrences become a possibility.

"These drum circles can get distracting with people drumming over here and people gathering over there," said Quion. "These guys you see here today are the good guys. It's the ones that come towards the evening time, getting intoxicated and out of control."

Quion feels that a stabbing can take place anywhere; it's just unfortunate it had to occur at the Venice Beach Drum Circle, a gathering that tries to promote a "harmonious outreach."

Venice Beach alone is considered to be one of California's leading tourist destinations. With its beachfront setting, numerous vendors, body-builders, musicians, athletes, colorful locals, and boardwalk performers, it attracts a multitude of people daily.

The Venice Beach Drum Circle is an unorganized, unstructured event that's been going on for many past years. Locals and tourists gather on the beach to rhythmically bang on drums (or any other noisemaking objects one can get there hands on), dance, or just watch the event take place.

"The problem is there's a small group of people that go into the drum circle and get drunk," said Commander Andrew Smith, Operations-West Bureau. "Though there've only been a couple of stabbing incidences, even one is one too many for us."

Smith, who is active on organizations such as Police Officer's Association of Los Angeles, FBI National Academy Associates, International Association of Chiefs of Police, among others, has been with the LAPD since 1993, and was promoted to the rank of Commander on June 28, 2007.

According to Smith, along with the heightened security which includes a Violent Crimes Task Force, the Metropolitan Division, Mounted Officers (horseback), and Motorcycle Officers, they'll be putting out under cover officers around the drum circle and boardwalk area.

The two stabbings are considered isolated incidences and rare. Smith believes there was a dispute or an altercation leading up to the recent stabbings.

"Once a stabbing occurs, everyone usually runs away from the scene," said Smith. "It's easy to conceal a knife when you're standing shoulder to shoulder, back to back; or runaway with the crowd."

There are still no suspects related to the drum circle stabbings, but Smith believes they'll soon find out after the review of several videos they have in their possession from cameras and cell phones.

"We want to keep Venice a fun, tourist-friendly, family-friendly environment," said Smith.