Combatting the area's prostitution and lewdness problems are a dozen undercover officers, plus 20 uniformed cops working the Prostitution Enforcement Detail, which patrols the streets. Such deployment has dimmed the Hollywood red light a bit: Unlike the early 1980s, when streets teemed with hundreds of hookers, officers say they are lucky to see a dozen or more each night. The decline in numbers has turned side streets into nocturnal speedways of blowing horns and screeching tires as anxious johns vie for attention.
"It's the law of supply and demand," Bennyworth says. "Some nights, there's a feeding frenzy out there. Cars are backed up half a block or more, like outside a Jack-in-the-Box."
While he supports the LAPD's efforts, Steve Kipnis, chairman of the prostitution task force for Hollywood's police advisory board, would like to see twice as many vice cops on the street.
"People who say vice is a victimless crime do not find used condoms in their driveway every morning," he says. "Neighbors are victims. And unless we have 100 cops working around the clock, they're not going to be able to tame the problem."
Meanwhile, the community has taken its own steps, recently posting signs that prohibit U-turns on streets adjacent to the main drags.
"Like a lot of people, I'm not a fuddy-duddy about sexual things," Kipnis says. "I just don't want to see it happen on my lawn."
Vice cops are always on the lookout for new trends--like dolled-up hookers in rental cars who cruise the strip, propositioning other drivers at traffic lights.
As Hollywood changes, so does its vice squad. Bennyworth and Caldera represent a new breed of man-woman team: They're young, hip and blow-dried. They weren't even around the department when the now-outdated film treatment of the squad's exploits--"Hollywood Vice Squad," starring Frank Gorshin as a sleaze ball pimp--opened nearly a decade ago.
Clad in blue jeans and flannel shirts, the partners are professional creatures of the streets, 1990s-style--old friends who socialize with each other's spouses and 2 1/2-year-olds and who recently bought tickets to see Van Halen together. Caldera was Bennyworth's training officer when she started with the LAPD gang unit seven years ago.
Since then, they've twice been partners. He's grown to like her spunk and willingness to throw her fists into any fight. She likes his easygoing style.
Like many cop teams, they feel almost married. "Most couples don't spend as much time together as we do," says Caldera, a daytime college English major. "I eat more meals with Teri than I do with my wife."
The hours are crazy, they say, because prostitutes can be creative. They and their pimps call the vice office at odd hours--mostly between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.--then immediately hang up in a ruse to see if the squad is there and on its toes. So detectives vary their schedules to throw them off.
And they use their own money to stretch a shoestring budget, buying their own laptop computers and props for undercover work. They share a cramped office with makeshift furniture so weathered that TV's Joe Friday might have used it.
On the street, they must cope with impudent pimps, jaded runaways and prostitutes infected with HIV.
"You struggle to shift gears when you go home," says Caldera. "Most days, I'm dealing with prostitutes and blatant pornography. Then, a few hours later, I'm home watching Barney or 'The Lion King' with my son."
In Hollywood vice, burnout comes as fast and furious as street propositions.
"After awhile, you need to get away from all the sex, sex, sex," says Vice Sgt. Steve Richards while chasing two stubborn prostitutes from a Sunset Boulevard 7-Eleven. "It just makes you sick to your stomach."
That, along with the widespread offerings of graft and payoffs, explain why Hollywood vice officers may serve no more than one 18-month tour of duty. "If you're going to be weak for graft, this job will do it," Richards says. "Any officer completing a vice tour without problems is looked at more seriously for promotion. It's good for your resume because they see you as highly responsible, more corruption-proof."
Temptation is dangled every day, Bennyworth says. "Just like on the night we arrested Hugh Grant," she says, munching on reduced-fat Wheat Thins. "We both knew who he was. I could have asked for tickets for the next week's movie premiere in exchange for looking the other way. And he probably would have given them to me."
Some men collect baseball trading cards, but Caldera keeps Polaroid snapshots of arrested prostitutes. Mostly, they're hard-looking women. "In this job," he says, wincing at one picture, "there's no such thing as 'Pretty Woman.' "