Jay, a homeless man sleeping near a Hollywood freeway onramp, awoke to the voices of police Friday morning.
Los Angeles Police Department officers Julie Nony and Paula Davidson had rooted out an encampment of nine transients — including Jay — who were sleeping along the Highland Avenue onramp to Highway 101.
Nony and Davidson were part of a team of roughly two dozen officers and sheriff's deputies who fanned out across Hollywood, trudging through wild-land hills and along freeway embankments looking for homeless people. The transients were told to move out but also were offered social services.
"Time to get up," Nony told Jay. "Are you on parole or probation?"
Startled, Jay responded that he wasn't but said he was in treatment for drug addiction and was taking methadone. The encampment was strewn with bedding and wrappers for hypodermic needles and In-N-Out French fries, along with handwritten signs asking for money.
"I promise not to buy drugs," read one.
In all, officers removed 25 transients and cited four of them for misdemeanors. In one case, officers hiked with a man into the hills well above the Hollywood cross, overlooking the Ford Theatres and the Hollywood Bowl, and helped him carry out luggage, several plastic bags of belongings, sleeping bags, a tent and a Darth Vader mask. They drove him to a homeless shelter.
In hilly areas of Hollywood, the homeless start fires, which are a danger to area residents and the transients themselves, said sheriff's Deputy Jason Elkins.
In the urban areas, "we're getting hit by property crimes," such as auto break-ins and home burglaries, said LAPD Capt. Bea Girmala, commander of the department's Hollywood Station. "The suspect descriptions, when we get them, are often of transients."
"This is the United States of America," Girmala said, "and we have people living in the bushes."
Hollywood has long been a magnet for homeless people. The area offers social services, police said, and is far from the drugs and violence of downtown's skid row.
"You walk through skid row and everybody is just bombarding you with drugs," said Jay, who declined to give his last name.
Almost half of the people officers removed declined any services and walked off into the city, their belongings in aquamarine plastic bags provided by police.
"We have to bring [the resources] to them," said Girmala. "Sometimes we strike out."