By Edwin Folven, 10/18/2012
BID looks to help monitor LAPD surveillance cameras
Police officers in riot gear were called in last Saturday to disperse a crowd of approximately 500 people who caused a disturbance near Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street after they couldn’t get into a movie premiere about skateboarding.
LAPD spokesman Det. Gus Villanueva said officers from the Hollywood Division were patrolling the area at approximately 8:40 p.m. when they noticed a large crowd gathered outside the Vine Theatre, located at 6321 Hollywood Blvd. The theatre had been rented for the premiere of a film titled “Bake and Destroy”, produced by the Bakerboys Distribution, a skateboarding equipment company. Villanueva said when officers initially arrived, some members of the crowd began throwing bottles and rocks. Police called for reinforcements, and within an hour-and-a-half, the crowd had dispersed, Villanueva said. No injuries were reported. One person was arrested for failing to disperse.
Capt. Beatrice Girmala, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Hollywood Division, said damage was limited to a glass lamp that was broken at a business next to the theatre, but the situation could have easily gotten out of control.
“It had potential,” she added. “We were worried that the crowd would try to go southbound on Vine Street and cause damage to some of the businesses there.”
Girmala said the officers formed skirmish lines to force the crowd to disperse, but more drastic measures such as pepper spray were not necessary. She said the incident is one of a handful over the past few years that illustrate the power of social media in drawing a crowd. Last year, a DJ known as Kaskade Tweeted that he would be appearing at a movie premiere at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, prompting a large impromptu crowd to show up. Police in riot gear were also called in then to disperse the crowd, and the incident caused authorities to look for ways to better monitor “flashmobs” generated through social media. Girmala said police had no indication the film premiere last Saturday would generate such a large crowd, and no one had notified the station that a large crowd might converge on the theatre. It has not been determined whether any costs of the police response or damage would be assessed to the theatre owner or the organizers of the event. A man who answered the phone at the theatre would not provide his name, and said there would be no comment from the owner or management.
Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Business Improvement District, said the incident raises concerns about security in Hollywood. Although “flashmobs” and other major disturbances occur infrequently, every weekend large numbers of people flock to the area.
She said during Halloween, tens of thousands of people come to Hollywood and walk the boulevard, even though there is no official Halloween event. Representatives of the Hollywood BID are now looking at ways they can help police in addressing the large crowds.
One possibility under consideration is to have security guards hired by the BID to monitor security cameras that have been placed at locations throughout Hollywood. Girmala said the amount of police resources only allow the cameras to be monitored “sporadically,” although they are constantly filming, and the footage can be reviewed if a crime occurred.
“We are very supportive of the idea,” Girmala added. “Cameras are not a cure all, but they are useful and helpful. With all of the officers on the street, it’s hard to have someone running the cameras twenty-four-hours-a-day.”
Girmala said the number of surveillance cameras and their exact locations is not divulged for security reasons, but she said they are positioned along Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, and major streets such as Highland Avenue and Vine Street. The cameras have been in place since 2004.
Morrison said the cost of having BID security guards monitor the cameras would be covered by the assessments paid annually by businesses along the boulevard, but it is unclear exactly how much it would cost. She said the BID’s Board of Directors would be considering the plan within the next few days, and if it is approved, representatives will work with authorities at the Hollywood Division to implement the program as soon a possible.
“We have been thinking about ways we can help,” Morrison said. “We’ve been noticing a lot more activity out there. We believe this would improve public safety.”