This Is What Domestic Surveillance Looks Like In Los Angeles In The 21st Century: Muslims Lawfully Distribute Pamphlets, Private Security Guards Call The Cops, Cops Read Pamphlets, Pronounce Them Reputable And Acceptably Anti-Terror, Make Report To So-Called Major Crimes Unit Anyway

The other day the LAPD provided me with a massive release of emails between various Hollywood Boss Cops and CIM Group and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. There’s a lot of stuff, and I haven’t read all of it carefully yet,1 but a couple items stood out for sheer disconcertion.

In short, the story started with private security guards at a Rick Caruso hypermall in Glendale flipping out because someone was taking pictures and not shopping, escalated to an attempt to get the Glendale PD to stop the guy and identify him, and ended up in Hollywood with then Hollywood Station Boss Commander Peter Zarcone reading through legally distributed pamphlets, deciding that they were acceptably critical of bad Islamist stuff, and subsequently reporting the distributors, law-abiding Muslims from the Islamic Institute of Orange County, to the LAPD’s Major Crimes Division.

On the one hand, it’s absolutely ludicrous and surreally kooky that a few Muslims passing out literature on Hollywood Boulevard can lead the LAPD and a bunch of private security to generate dozens of emails at the highest levels, follow the Muslims around videotaping them and writing down their license plates, combing through their pamphlets, and so on. On the other hand, it’s absolutely chilling. That seems to be the world we’re living in, I guess. Surreally ludicrous, surreally chilling. As always, find details and documentation after the break.

The Islamic Institute of Orange County is “a reputable organization,” according to LAPD Captain Peter Zarcone, to whom all sane people turn for evaluations of the reputation of religious organizations. Thanks, Cap’n Zarcone!

Here are the two relevant email chains:

The story begins with Caruso Security contractor Adam Bercovici of Critical Solutions Protective Services Group emailing Jackie Levy of Caruso about a guy who did not shop at the Americana Mall in Glendale:


Jackie: Today our off-duty officer at the AAB observed what he believed to be suspicious activity on the part of an individual on the property. That behavior consisted of taking photographs of ingress and egress areas within the property. The subject also tool pictures of the parking area, elevators and walked the perimeter of the property several times. At no time did he shop.

He was on property prior to our officer starting work, but once on scene he ( our officer) began to monitor him. Our officer was very clear that the subject was also engaged in counter surveillance. Our officer followed him on foot off the property, but at some point was unable to stay with him and see if he entered a vehicle. During this incident an attempt was made to notify Glendale PD and get them to make a consensual stop and ID the subject. For reasons unknown at this time they did not. I have notified the appropriate entities at the LAPD to alert them of this since Glendale is part of the greater LA area. I am also confident that they can use their resources to hopefully ID the subject. The AAB and The Grove although different in many ways have commonalities that make it important these pictures and information are disseminated. At this point Glendale PD is being reconnected to take a SAR.

On December 4, 2015, evidently the same suspicious guy, who doesn’t seem to have been spirited away to Guantanamo by the Glendale PD,2 showed up at the Grove, which prompted Adam Bercovici to bring the LAPD into the story in the person of LAPD Uberkommandant Howard Leslie, via this email:

Mike and Howard: Here is the original e-mail and the photographs of the subject when he was at the Americana in Glendale. He was spotted tonight at the Grove/Farmers Market. I will send the picture from today in a second e-mail.

Adam

Aside from the surreal fact that Grove security is emailing the freaking commander of the LAPD’s entire Central Bureau because they spotted some guy who had had the nerve not to shop at their mall in Glendale, this episode is mostly notable because somehow our hero, Captain Peter Zarcone, got involved in the saga at this point. The next morning, December 5, 2015 at a little after 8 a.m., Zarcone wrote to Mike Harkins, who has some kind of shady cross-appointment between the BID Patrol and CIM security at Hollywood & Highland. It’s not so clear from this email chain what turn the story has taken now, but it becomes clear later that someone at Hollywood & Highland was worried about suspicious people, and Zarcone seems to have made a connection with the putative Caruso non-shopping terrorist suspect, leading him to quiz Harkins on their state of readiness:

Mike,

Below are the photos I told you about.

In addition to the schematic and contact info for the on site security manager for today and tomorrow, can you please send me the following information?

1) Number of armed and unarmed you have deployed today and tomorrow

2) Is someone manning cameras and are they working?

3) What are their patrol routes? Do they include perimeter and parking structure?

Thanks,

Pete

It’s not clear from the record what became of their worries about the guy from the Caruso properties showing up at Hollywood & Highland. The whole thing just fades from the email chain. But by about 4 p.m. on December 5, Harkins has shifted his concern3 to some people on Hollywood Boulevard that might be connected with that original guy who did not buy. And his attentions are considerable. He is taking pictures, he’s writing down license plates, he’s making freaking video recordings:

Captain,

Here’s the vehicle driven by the individual who walked the perimeter I forwarded earlier…he was parked at 1721 Las Palmas. They’ve packed up and left for the day.

Three of the other individuals left in a dark blue Honda Accord CA lie. 6UVY*** which they parked in the Madame Tussauds parking lot off of Orange.

I have video of all individuals on the Blvd today and can forward if they are in any way connected with the original individual from the Americana/Grove locations.

Thanks,

Mike

And what was the outcome? Zarcone actually had his beat cops talk to the people, and here was the result:

Thanks Mike. Our foot beat contacted them. Their pamphlets are from the Islamic Institute of Orange County, which is a reputable organization. The pamphlet is denouncing terror and extremism. We do not believe they are related to the Grove subject. We are not completing a SAR, but I forwarded the information to Major Crimes. Thanks for the vigilance and great partnership!

Pete

Peter A. Zarcone, Captain
Commanding Officer
Hollywood Area
(213) 972-2900

Well, what can I say about that? Pass out pamphlets on Hollywood Boulevard and have the LAPD stop you, look them over, and decide if they’re acceptable. And if they’re acceptable, nothing happens except a report to the Major Crimes Division. Horrific.

Finally, perhaps I’m being too harsh in assuming, in implying, that this shameful episode had anything to do with Islamophobia? Maybe they’re just mobilizing the troops against religious fanatics who, it’s true, can be quite dangerous. Well, if you know the area, you will know that there are always, always Jehovah’s Witnesses out there handing out pamphlets. In three years of reading LAPD emails, BID Patrol emails, and so on, I’ve never seen any indication that any cops or security guards were worried about them, even though they’re pretty darn fanatical.4 So yeah, anyway, that happened. Do you feel safer now?


Image of Peter Zarcone is ©2017 MichaelKohlhaas.Org. Image of IIOC seems to be a public record insofar as I got it from the LA County Sheriff’s Department. If I’ve interpreted this wrong I’m sure someone will tell me about it at some point.

  1. Obviously I will be doing so at some point, but in the meanwhile, if you spot anything interesting, drop me a line.
  2. For reasons unknown at this time, as Adam Bercovici so succinctly puts it.
  3. Harkins has shifted his concern and we have shifted our attention to the second of the two emails that we’re looking at today.
  4. Friendly, but fanatical. Not hitherto known to engage in terrorism, but maybe they’re just really smart about it.
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