Bright Lights, Big Security

I don’t watch movie awards ceremonies, but I do know what it means to roll out the red carpet. In the case of the Academy Awards, security is at the edge of the crimson runway.

Hollywood Boulevard isn’t quite packed with law enforcement to keep the peace. Instead there is a group of people who have enough law enforcement experience in their background to satisfy the wary.

Andrews International, a full-service provider of security and risk-mitigation services, has taken over the Hollywood/Highland area of Los Angeles, protecting the interests of business owners and tourists alike. Don’t get me wrong—LAPD still has a major presence of about 40 officers in the area, but the 7 square miles that comprises Hollywood/Highland is Andrews’ territory. The Andrews team, for the most part, is made up of retired officers from urban jurisdictions in the area, officers who understand what it takes to secure an area frequented by thousands of tourists.

“We’re very passionate about this part of town,” said Bill Farrar, senior vice president of operations and business development for Andrews International. “We’re not here to replace the police department, but our duties are simply to work with the community.”

The area has seen a major drop in crime, which is largely due to the new community policing attitude in which security officers work diligently with resources such as outreach programs, homeless shelters, the Chamber of Commerce, schools and LAPD.

For Andrews employees, it’s not so much about enforcement as it is working hand-in-hand with anyone who comes to the retail district.

“The Hollywood/Highland area brings an eclectic mix of tourists, residents, entertainment and media folk, and employees alike to our venue,” said Mike Harkins, executive security director at the Hollywood and Highland Center. “Every day brings new challenges with protests, special events, Kodak shows and visiting dignitaries from around the world.”

Security officers at Andrews have introduced a new dimension to urban policing—or I should say, urban security—to this once blighted area. They pursue an aggressive enforcement strategy as a backup to their outreach and problem-solving efforts.

“Our management style allows us to be proactive for and with the client, while embracing the company philosophy,” Harkins said. “This mixture allows our employees to take ownership in the job they do for Andrews, as well as the client.”

When Andrews International got the contract to supply security services, it was a deployment of epic proportions. Not too many law enforcement teams, much less security details, are asked to secure places like the Kodak Theater, Grauman’s Chinese Theater and blocks upon blocks of other tourist hot spots.

Uniformed officers are easy to spot; some of them patrol using T-3 electric vehicles from T3 Motion, SUVs or bikes. The area also has deployed a generous number of plain-clothes security officers, who also patrol the four nightclubs in the area. Officers also monitor the area with CCTVs, which are fed back to a control center near the Kodak Theater. It’s all similar to a city within a city, except the security office is merely a holding area for officers to secure violators until LAPD arrives to transport offenders to a city/county lockup. Officials are already planning the installation of nearly 200 digital cameras that will feed over the network to the command center.

Among the glamour of Hollywood, there are certain procedures that get top priority. Take for instance the AcademyAwards. The fanfare of celebrities mixing with security might seem like a headache. The stars of the silver screen often have their own security detail, but amazingly, it all comes off without a hitch. Andrews’ staff has the overriding role of providing security.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say an actor’s bodyguard wants to ensure his client gets the utmost protection. The bodyguard surveys the premises with Andrews’ staff to make sure they know what to do if a situation comes into play. Andrews’ staff has full and complete ownership of security throughout an awards ceremony. The only time they would defer security operations would be to Secret Service, but even then, their expertise is widely known and valued.

The theater helps with providing certain routines and travel passages for award winners to follow on the way to an interview. Security in the Hollywood/Highland area gets top billing. It’s apparent from the interaction between the security staff and business owners—both are complimentary of each other’s work.

“We are encouraged to innovate and to work hand-inhand with every agency,” said Stephen Seyler, director of security for the business improvement district. “Hollywood is a special place, and it is very rewarding to be part of its renaissance.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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