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Despite surging COVID-19 cases, shrinking hospital capacity and a statewide ban on gatherings between individuals from more than one household, people are still partying the night away. This weekend, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies busted a party in Palmdale where they found 158 people, as well as six guns, and rescued a human trafficking victim.
Authorities raided a home in the 6300 block of W. Avenue M8 in Palmdale at about 10 p.m. Saturday night. Fox 11 has been investigating underground parties and was on the scene when authorities arrived. The station reported that the 17-year-old party promoter of the Palmdale event recently threw other parties in Pomona and Ontario as well.
During a press conference this morning, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that around six parties take place in L.A. County — as well as in surrounding counties — every weekend, defying the current health order prohibiting gatherings among households.
Sometimes, party promoters will rent out an Airbnb to host their event even though the short-term lodging service does not allow parties at their properties. In this particular instance, Villanueva said the party hosts broke into a vacant house, carting their equipment over in a U-Haul. Authorities spoke with the homeowners, who said they intend to rent the home to a family and never gave anyone permission to throw a party there.
In total, 116 adults and 35 juveniles were cited for misdemeanors, while five people were arrested for burglary, and one juvenile was arrested on a gun charge. Three guns were recovered the night of the party, and deputies found another three the morning after. A 17-year-old girl who had allegedly been forced into human trafficking was also rescued from the party. Villanueva said she will be provided mental and physical care and be reunited with her family.
“Even without the health order, these actions were criminal in nature,” Villanueva said.
He also took the opportunity to take a dig at the current health orders, encouraging local officials to allow restaurants to reopen for in-person dining while focusing on the targeted enforcement of “superspreader” events like this one.
Villanueva expressed concern that business closures would force more gatherings indoors and underground, but also noted that these types of parties, which often involve “drugs, prostitution, underage drinking and violence,” have been going on “forever.”
Unsurprisingly, the kind of people who throw and attend these parties aren’t too concerned with social distancing or wearing face coverings. All in all, not very safe from a COVID-19 perspective.
The sheriff’s department will continue to use social media, informants, citizen complaints and other methods to track and shut down parties.