When you're trying to promote Hollywood, about the last thing you need is a headline on the Daily Mail website that reads, "Panhandlers stab woman to death on Hollywood's Walk of Fame after she took photo of them on her phone and refused to pay $1 for it." This was not a case of someone walking to their car on a deserted side street at 4 in the morning. Christine Darlene Calderon was at Hollywood at Highland in the early evening, no doubt surrounded by hundreds of visitors. How on earth is she stabbed to death in the middle of all that? "This is not the rule," said Leon Gubler, chief executive of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, who told me that crime in the area has actually been going down. The one area that continues to be a problem is so-called aggressive panhandling, which generally involves badgering people for money. In the Calderon case, one of three men allegedly asked for $1 after she started taking pictures of signs they were holding. Police said that when she refused to pay, the men attacked her. Three men have been charged in connection with the stabbing. Cops have tried to clamp down on coercive demands for money, but the courts severely limit what they can do. Complicating matters is the area itself, which is jammed with tourists, tour bus operators, vendors, and transients. Gubler would like to see some controls on who can solicit along that stretch of Hollywood Boulevard. Meantime, area merchants are worried that the incident could take on a life of its own, much like what happened in Westwood Village so many years ago when a gang shootout resulted in the death of a young woman. "We don't want to be another Westwood," Gubler told me. Problem is people believe what they want to believe, and Hollywood, for all its resurgence in recent years, is still saddled with a checkered reputation. From the Daily Mail:
Police cautioned others to be careful when approaching anyone on the street. 'Just be aware of your surroundings and be careful. Generally, in my experience as a law enforcement officer, people, transients don't like their pictures being taken,' LAPD Officer Cleon Joseph said. 'I'm not saying that's a cause or reason for anything, but you just at the end of the day need to be careful,' Joseph added.
*Update: Increased patrols are planned for the Hollywood tourist district, Chief Charlie Beck told the LAT.
In addition to adding more undercover officers and horse-mounted patrols, Beck said there has been some discussion about how to better deal with the aggressive panhandling along the boulevard. We "don't want to lose any of the ground that's been gained in Hollywood," Beck said. "The whole area has changed for the better but all of that can be in jeopardy if you don't remain vigilant and set strong standards for behavior."