Security Heightened Around Hollywood & Highland

By DAVID GREENBERG
Staff Reporter

An unprecedented level of police and private security has been put in place near the newly opened Hollywood & Highland project, complete with rooftop surveillance, as officials try to keep the showcase development from being overrun by criminal elements.

"We don't have this level of security services at every one of our locations," said Russ Joyner, vice president and general manager of Hollywood & Highland, which is owned by Toronto-based TrizecHahn Corp.

Eight task forces consisting of 50 special operations officers have been formed to complement 7 a.m.-to-midnight foot and bicycle patrols, 24-hour cruiser patrols and undercover narcotics officers who are present in the area.

LAPD Hollywood Police Capt. Michael Downing refused to discuss details of some of the security but said it includes:

- 12 gang specialists who make four to eight arrests per night for car theft, drug possession and dealing, carrying weapons and committing violent acts.

- As many as eight patrol officers making an average of 60 arrests or citations per day for subway fare evasion at the Highland, Western and Argyle avenue stations.

- As many as 10 undercover officers making eight to 10 arrests per night of motorists driving unlicensed cabs, which police say are often used by pimps and prostitutes whom registered cab companies refuse to transport.

- An unspecified number of undercover narcotics officers who patrol the area on foot and conduct surveillance from surrounding rooftops using video and still cameras, as well as binoculars.

Subway brought crime

Formation of the forces was in response to the rise in violent crime in the area after the opening of the Hollywood-Highland Red Line subway station in 2000 and the Vine Street station in 1999.

"The subway is a two-edged sword," said John Walsh, chairman of the Project Area Committee, a neighborhood advisory group unofficially associated with the city-run Hollywood Redevelopment Project. "It brings shoppers and tourists, but it also expands the mobility of the criminal element."

Violent crime (aggravated assaults, robberies, rapes and homicides) was up to 175 incidents through Dec. 11 of this year vs. 143 incidents for all of 2000 in the LAPD reporting district that includes Hollywood & Highland. Whether the increased security will put a dent in crime remains to be seen, since the mega-mall only opened Nov. 9.

Overall arrests in the reporting district are on the decline, however, in the fourth quarter of 2001, dropping to 179 through Dec. 11, from 307 in the third quarter.

Private security involved

The Hollywood division which has 325 officers, down 12 percent from 18 months ago is working in conjunction with two private security forces.

The Hollywood Entertainment District Property Owners Association spends about half of the $2.1 million in annual fees from its 210 member businesses for security, said Kerry Morrison, the agency's executive director. During shopping hours, six armed security guards patrol Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea Avenue and Gower Street.

TrizecHahn also has an unspecified number of unarmed guards who patrol the mall and its 3,000-space underground parking garage 24 hours a day. More than 150 surveillance cameras are installed in the mall's common areas and garage, in addition to cameras that individual stores have in place.

Downing had to redirect some of his forces in making the area around the mall a priority. But all 11 sections of the division's 19-square-mile coverage area have basic cruiser coverage and a senior lead officer to oversee operations, he said. Additional foot patrols monitor the Melrose Avenue business district, which stretches from La Cienega Boulevard to La Brea Avenue.

"When we heard we were going to open in Hollywood, we thought it was a high-risk area," said Ariadna Arreola, manager of Victoria's Secret, one of the mall's 72 current tenants. "But in a month's period, I feel as safe as if I were in a closed-door mall. The type of traffic we are getting is nothing abnormal."

She said that the only trouble the store has encountered was one customer bothering another. When employees called for help, mall security arrived in less than a minute, she said.

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