On the surface, this place seems like something out of a movie. Well, since it is Hollywood, I guess there is a good reason for it. Walking along Hollywood and Vine, the 90210 zip code really captures the imagination. Everywhere you look, expectations are that someone behind those wrap-around OP sunglasses was on your favorite television thriller last night, or the couple in the Bentley convertible just returned from a movie screening at the Kodak Theater up the block.
But as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard, it is quickly evident that this is home to almost every socio-economic group. Behind the glitter, Hollywood faces all the same issues any metropolitan area does — ranging from violent crime to simple panhandling. In fact, a decade ago, crime had so tarnished the glitz of the Hollywood business district that it was deemed unsafe by tourists, and local merchants agreed that something had to be done. So business owners took a unique and community-friendly approach to combating crime.
Thus, the Hollywood Entertainment District was born. It stretches along the world-famous Walk of Fame and spans historic Hollywood Boulevard, from the LaBrea Gateway on the west to the Hollywood (101) Freeway on the east, with most of Hollywood’s famous landmarks located in its epicenter. This Business Investment District (BID) is funded by more than 225 property owners and operates an annual budget of $3.4 million that is used primarily for private security and maintenance services.
What has emerged over the last decade-plus is perhaps one of the most successful examples of public-private partnerships and community policing in the United States. Walking into the Spartan-like community center substation manned by private security firm Andrews International in the Hollywood and Vine district, I meet Bill Farrar, senior vice president of operations and business development for Andrews, who explains his vision.
“This place used to be the armpit of the area. Tourists were afraid to come, businesses were threatened and the police presence was stretched,” says Farrar, who served in the Los Angeles Police Department for more than 23 years. “What we have established here is a true partnership between the community, the local police and the private sector.”
Staffed mostly by retired LAPD officers, Andrews patrols about seven square miles of the district seven days a week with what Farrar calls “an old-fashioned approach.” Much like the cop on the beat of bygone eras, Farrar’s 15 “beat” officers are more concerned about being ambassadors for the community than emulating Starsky and Hutch. “This is all about doing community outreach and reacting with a problem-solving approach; not just going out and arresting everyone you see,” Farrar says. “It is hard to imagine a bunch of crusty old cops out their problem-solving, but it works.”
While Andrews’ officers are allowed to make arrests, and enforcement is certainly a prime directive, working closely with outreach centers, homeless shelters, runaway groups and drug rehab clinics to help those on the streets in need is a constant. Farrar says it is all about the relationship building.
As with any good partnership, the LAPD has been an advocate of the program for years. More than 30 years ago, Ed Davis, former LAPD chief, stressed the importance of having local communities closely involved with law enforcement to ensure a total policing approach. The success of the Hollywood BID is proving that a collaborative effort between the business chamber, local police and private security firms works.
Perhaps the most dramatic example of this Hollywood version of private/public partnership came in 2007. Andrews International’s director of BID security, Stephen Seyler, and two other officers apprehended a murder suspect in the entertainment district after receiving tips from citizens who spotted the suspect’s truck after watching the FOX television program America’s Most Wanted.