Councilman introduces pilot program for cleanups, patrols of L.A. River in San Fernando Valley

SAN FERNANDO VALLEY, Calif. (KABC) -- City officials are calling for major change in how a stretch of the Los Angeles River in the San Fernando Valley is patrolled following an increase in problems in the area.

Residents in the area say the four-mile stretch of river and popular path is becoming downright dangerous, with homeless encampments and frequent crime activity.

"Our community members are afraid to use the bike path, also afraid to use local businesses because the crime we are seeing is spilling into local communities affecting everyone," said Evelytn Aleman, co-founder of L.A. River Walkers and Watchers.

The biggest challenge, according to residents, is the lack of unified enforcement. Various different agencies oversee the river and its many different issues.

"Having one organization ruling them all is critical as a community member to report whether its a lamp post that is out or transients that are committing crime," says Joe Macias of LA River Walkers and Watchers.

LA City councilman Bob Blumenfield introduced a motion for a pilot program directing the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority as the lead agency to patrol the stretch of river, from Canoga Park to Reseda, adding that too many jurisdictions makes it difficult to solve problems.

"To me, they're the perfect entity to do it because they are a park agency," said Blumenfield. "They know about water quality, park issues and interest in creating vibrant parks and the rangers unlike most other rangers are peace officers."

The MRCA rangers are sworn officers with swift water, EMT and firefighting training, the perfect fit, according to Blumenfield, for patrolling the river and its complex problems.

Volunteers like Aleman and Macias, who have been key in trying to keep the path clean, said its a win-win solution.

It's critical for the people, the communities living near the bike path," said Aleman. "Critical for safety reasons and maintenance of the bike path."

Blumenfield hopes to have his motion heard by the city council by the end of the year. If it's approved, he hopes the pilot program will be implemented in a matter of months.
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