VENICE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When it comes to law enforcement in Venice, the Los Angeles Police Department has long been the agency in charge.
But now Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is sending deputies in to patrol the boardwalk and beach in an effort to crack down on Venice's growing homelessness problem.
And it's sparking an ugly political spat.
"The city of LA created this problem," Villanueva said Monday in Venice. "This is a failure of leadership from the very top."
That prompted a series of angry tweets from Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who called Villanueva a "roadblock" to progress, accused him of exploiting the homeless for political gain, and called the effort a PR blitz promising Villanueva's "notorious brand of justice."
On Tuesday morning, members of the sheriff's department's Homeless Outreach Services Team - H.O.S.T. - hit the Venice boardwalk, talking with members of the homeless community there and laying the groundwork for getting the encampments under control.
"This is a humanitarian project," said Sheriff's Lt. Geff Deedrick. "We're seeing human misery here, and this is sad and so it has to be addressed."
Spikes in homeless-related fires, fights, even shootings are putting Venice on the edge of lawlessness. One woman was arrested Monday for bringing a knife to a Councilman Joe Buscaino mayoral campaign event in Venice.
The LAPD issued a written statement seemingly appreciating the sheriff's department's patrols.
"The Los Angeles Police Department is committed to working with all of our public safety partner agencies and elected officials to improve the safety of our communities, including efforts to increase outreach and provide needed housing and supportive services in the Venice Beach community and elsewhere."
Some Venice residents are also embracing the sheriff's outreach program, hoping it will keep the homeless population there under the rule of law.
"It's just extremely unfair to the residents and to people that have kids," said Ray Maiello, who has lived in Venice for 18 years. "I've never in my life seen this kind of violence. I would love Villanueva to clean it up."