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Plan to Bolster Security Gets OK : Redevelopment: CRA officials approve $1 million to increase anti-crime measures on Hollywood Boulevard. The proposal now goes before the City Council.

June 21, 1992|MATHIS CHAZANOV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HOLLYWOOD — Hoping to turn the tide of crime, panhandling and homelessness on Hollywood Boulevard, directors of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency voted Thursday to spend just over $1 million on security guards, social services and cellular phones for Neighborhood Watch groups.

The vote came over the objections of CRA board member Thomas Kilgore Jr., who said that city expenditures to bolster security in a time of police personnel shortages should not be limited to one area alone.

"Business in South-Central (Los Angeles) needs the same protection as Hollywood," he said. "If this passes, we're going to have a flood of other requests from areas saying, 'We're facing the same problems they're facing in Hollywood.' "

But the directors voted 5-1 to go ahead with the plan after board member Edward J. Avila answered another objection from Kilgore by promising to check with police chief-designate Willie L. Williams about how the Hollywood plan would mesh with Williams' ideas for policing the city.

And CRA Chairman James M. Wood said that he would welcome and support similar requests from other redevelopment areas.

For now, he said, the success of the city's 30-year, $922-million strategy to revitalize its most famous neighborhood is threatened by drugs, prostitution and runaways, which Wood described as "the street-level activity that pulls people out of Hollywood."

"The criminals are advancing and our customers are retreating," said Hollywood Chamber director Chris P. Baumgart, whose video equipment store was looted and burned in the riots that followed the Rodney G. King verdicts.

If the plan succeeds, he said, "then we can start enjoying our landmark boulevard instead of fearing it."

The plan was endorsed by City Councilman Michael Woo, who said that the program would strengthen the police presence in Hollywood by deploying extra eyes and ears on the boulevard while attempting to deal with social ills.

"The police department does not have the resources to pay for this kind of innovative idea," he said.

The plan, also endorsed by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, calls for spending $1.07 million of the agency's tax increment funds to create a Hollywood Cooperative Security Program.

If approved by the City Council, the plan could go into effect by the end of this summer, said Lillian Berkheim, Hollywood Boulevard project manager for the redevelopment agency.

The plan calls for creation of a private security force of 12 to 14 guards to patrol the boulevard during peak tourist hours, answering visitors' questions and giving directions while providing a uniformed, though unarmed, presence.

The cost of the force would be about $750,000 for the first year.

An additional $250,000 would go for services for homeless people and runaways. Another $75,000 would cover the purchase and service costs of a bank of 25 portable phones for Neighborhood Watch groups to use to call the police when they patrol their areas.

In a report submitted by Avila, agency staff members said that business has dropped sharply since the riots, which saw significant looting and fire damage along Hollywood Boulevard.

"This cooperative security program is by no means a panacea for all the crime problems in Hollywood," the report said. "It attempts to address a very visible problem which directly affects the vitality of Hollywood Boulevard and the redevelopment plan goals of revitalizing Hollywood and bringing additional economic vitality to the Boulevard District. . . . People must begin to believe that it is safe to go to the boulevard."

Capt. John Higgins, commander of the LAPD's Hollywood station, said that he was not familiar with the details of the plan, but added: "We'd support anything they're planning to do.

"There apparently is a need for more policing up there," he said.

With a staff of about 300 officers, the LAPD's Hollywood Area covers a broad swath of territory--from Mulholland Drive south to Beverly Boulevard and from Normandie Avenue west to the West Hollywood city line--but Hollywood Boulevard accounts for about 24% of reported crimes.

CRA officials said the plan was designed to meet the requirements of state law, which bans the use of redevelopment money for routine government expenses such as police salaries.

The agency is funded by property tax revenues that are set aside for rehabilitating blighted areas.

Legislation under consideration in Sacramento would loosen restrictions to allow the use of such tax funds for law enforcement programs to reduce drug trafficking and gang-related crime.

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