LAPD increases patrols in Hollywood following fatal stabbing

LAPD is adding patrols to Hollywood Blvd. following a fatal stabbing.
LAPD is adding patrols to Hollywood Blvd. following a fatal stabbing.
Rina Palta / KPCC

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Hollywood Boulevard bustled with CD slingers, comic characters and tourists Saturday, despite the alleged murder of a young woman days ago at Hollywood and Highland. 

Police say Christine Calderon, 23, of Lynwood was walking down Hollywood with a co-worker Tuesday evening around 8:30pm, when she snapped a photo of a transient holding a sign. When the man demanded a dollar for the photo, Calderon declined, said police, and an altercation ensued.

The man allegedly slashed Calderon across the torso and she died later during surgery. The L.A. District Attorney charged Dustin James Kinnear with murder. In an initial court appearance, Kinnear, as well as two men accused of assisting him, pled not guilty.

Don Mohafka, who works as a tour guide in Hollywood, said the street, momentarily thrust into the chaos of ambulances, fire trucks, and patrols cars, went back to its more normal chaos soon after. 

"That stuff never happens in this part of Hollywood," he said. 

Mohafka, who's lived in Hollywood for 15 years, said the area has cleaned up a lot since the Hollywood and Highland Center went up more than a decade ago. But, he said, aggressive panhandling, character actors, and tour vendors are a constant hazard for tourists.

"But I wouldn't ever think it'd come to that level of someone getting murdered," Mohafka said.

Crime in Hollywood, while notorious in the 1990s, has since fallen, as it has elsewhere in Los Angeles. This year crime is down from 2012 in almost every category.  Aggravated assaults and shootings have both increased slightly. 

Tuesday's murder, while rare, was enough to spark calls for an increased police presence in the area by L.A.'s Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, and the incoming City Attorney Mike Feuer. 

As of Saturday, Lt. Rich Gabaldon of LAPD's Hollywood Division said there were three-to-five extra patrol units on Hollywood Blvd. where they would likely stay for the foreseeable future. LAPD has not yet determined exactly what the extra patrol presence will look like going forward.

James Sheppherd, who grew up in Hollywood and has lived there off and on since, said he'd welcome the extra officers.

"I mean uniformed officers," he said. "Sure, they got cameras all over the place, but that doesn't stop what's happening at the moment."

In addition to LAPD, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department maintains a presence at Hollywood and Highland, where they patrol the metro stop. And Hollywood's Business Improvement District pays for private security officers.

Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, said there are eight-to-ten private security officers patrolling the area's two business improvement districts between the hours of 6 a.m.-8 p.m.

"They're looking mostly at quality of life issues and low-level crimes," Morrison said. They can make arrests (and do, about 1,000 a year, she said), but only if they see the crime occur themselves. Morrison said all the officers are retired law enforcement.

Morrison said her officers have had sporadic interactions with Kinnear, the man accused of murdering Calderon. All for "minor things" in the past five years.

Most of the transients who make their home in the neighborhood are peaceful, she said. The most pressing issue has been finding help for the severely mentally ill.

"We're running into a brick wall trying to find help," Morrison said.