To the roving criminal eye, Beverly Hills is an invitation to steal.
It is only 5 1/2 square miles, but every inch is measurable in carats.
So when Eddie Murphy made his appearance as the maverick "Beverly Hills Cop," one began to wonder what the real cops and robbers of Beverly Hills were like. They certainly play their roles against a set that Hollywood could not afford.
Except where its back is to the hills, Beverly Hills is a vulnerable urban islet, cut by major public boulevards like Wilshire, Sunset, Olympic and Santa Monica, over which any kind of riffraff can pursue whatever nefarious schemes they might hatch.
Its 33,000 residents cling to their superlatives of beauty and power and wealth and put their money into its 63 financial institutions, have their hair done and their legs waxed at its 58 beauty salons, dine at its 122 expensive restaurants, adorn themselves with the glittering products of its 31 jewelry stores, including Tiffany's, Van Cleef and Arpels, Cartier and Fred, and ride around in their Ferraris and Porsches and Rolls-Royces. A mere Mercedes has the eye-value of a Chevy or a Ford.
It's all here, exposed and ripe for the plucking.
"Anytime you have an abundance of wealth and that wealth is shown, as it is here in Beverly Hills," said Beverly Hills Police Lt. Bill Hunt, "you're going to have those who try to acquire it."
Standing between those avaricious strangers and the embattled millionaires of Beverly Hills are 115 real Beverly Hills cops.
They are a professional, aggressive force, and over the years they have done their work quietly and with discretion. They have a decades-long reputation for toughness. Incidentally, they are hiring, and starting pay is high by police department standards--almost $30,000 a year.
Experience Level Rising
The experience level is rising, now an average of five years on the street, and the average pay is in the high $30,000 to the low $40,000 bracket, which includes all benefits including a fully paid pension. Still, none can afford to live in Beverly Hills.
Like other area cops, they graduate from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Police Academy. Like most Southern California police, they take a pro-active stance; they seek to intercept the thief before he thieves. Besides crime prevention, Beverly Hills cops cleared 30% of their cases last year, well above average.
Their chief is new this year. Marvin Ianone is a 28-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, formerly No. 2 there. He makes $75,000 a year. He replaced a popular chief, Lee Tracy, who resigned due to illness after 22 years on the force. Beverly Hills hires carefully and keeps its people.
But enter Eddie Murphy, playing a cop from Hamtramck, Mich., prowling the cinematic landscape from Rodeo Drive to Robertson Boulevard, the cleverly contrived antithesis to the real thing. He is a black, street-wise lawman from the inner city busting things up in an urbane paradise, the bull in a china shop. Before he is done, he makes the screen cops seem like effete ushers good only for parking cars at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Not exactly a morale builder for the real Beverly Hills cops.
Enjoyed the Movie
Still most of the force liked the movie as entertainment, Hunt said, even if it doesn't bear much resemblance to the real thing.
"They did a good job of re-creating our uniforms and cars," he said. "We didn't have anything to do with the movie at all, no input. I think they portrayed our patrol officers in a fairly positive way, very sharp-looking people. The detectives were a different story.
"It's not something everybody here has taken their family to see because of the language and the subject matter."
Sgt. Mike Corren, a 35-year-old who rides a black-and-white with a 12-gauge shotgun in a dashboard rack, said he enjoyed it--"as a movie."
He quickly moves on, one ear tuned to other patrol cars. He steers his vehicle along the perimeters of the tiny city and up into the hills. Most people don't know, he said, that the city has its share of wildlife, deer, possums, raccoons and coyotes.
Most of the other wild life in Beverly Hills goes on behind closed doors where the average price of a home is more than $700,000, and the median family income, including the low-rent district, is more than $40,000 a year. There are multimillion-dollar mansions in the hills and million-plus condominiums along the edges.
Robbery Is Biggest Crime
As one would expect, robbery is the big crime. It may be as simple as slum kids stealing 10-speed bikes from Beverly Hills kids. It may be as violent and unpredictable as August's daylight smash-in at a jewelry store off the lobby of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The robbers carried Uzi submachine guns and fired into the lobby and on the street at a witness who got their license plate number.
These hit-and-run crimes, tough to stop, are epidemic in the country now. Most often the bandits have escaped and changed cars before police can get to the scene.