The stretch of Hollywood Boulevard near the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre is one of the top tourist attractions in the country.
But an undercover investigation by KCBS investigative reporter Joel Grover reveals that the seamy and dangerous side of Hollywood is flourishing right next to the glamour and glitz. He reported for The Early Show.
Los Angeles is now spending a billion tax dollars to revitalize Hollywood, to make it more tourist and family friendly. The city would like tourists to believe this area is safe. But that's not what Grover's team found, when they went undercover in Hollywood.
From dusk to dawn, Hollywood is alive again with dozens of new theaters, shops, and nightclubs; a new home for the Oscars and the new Hollywood Highland Complex bring glamour - and people - back to the area.
But KCBS's undercover cameras reveal a Hollywood filled with danger and drug dealers - a ticking time bomb that residents fear could explode. They regularly hear gunfire, and one of them warns, "One of these days, one of your precious tourists is going to be walking down the street, and bullets are going to be whizzing, and someone's going to get shot."
Are drug dealers really taking over Hollywood's bustling entertainment district? To find out, Grover's team moved into the neighborhood for two months. They placed cameras on rooftops, in windows and in cars.
They kept noticing a certain group of men across the street from Grauman's Chinese Theatre, popping little white rocks in their mouths. They were always flashing lots of cash, cutting deals, and rushing up to passing cars. Concealed in their mouths are rocks of crack cocaine. (A dealer keeps it in his mouth, the cops come up, they swallow it, and there goes the evidence.)
Every night, a parade of Porsches, Mercedes, and other cars come to buy those little rocks. The dealer just jumps in, gets his cash, and the driver gets his drugs. It's all over in five seconds.
Buyers often come on foot, pay up, get their rocks, and just keep on walking. Others come on crutches, in wheelchairs, and on bicycles, like one guy who forked over his cash, got his drugs and tucked them in his mouth for safekeeping.
Every block seems controlled by a different set of dealers. And the cops seem to know all about it.
But the dealers are outsmarting the cops. Grover's team saw them hiding their drugs in the fence posts and the bushes, keeping just a few rocks in their mouths.
And even if the cops come, the dealers have spotters on every corner and they scatter whenever a squad car is coming. Minutes later, when the coast is clear, they're back in business, making drug deals that sometimes turn violent.
Hollywood's top cop, Capt. Mike Downing, says he is "disgusted" by the situation.
"We do need more resources on the street, I got to be frank with you," he says. "We certainly can do a lot better than we are doing right now."
Even James Hahn, the mayor of Los Angeles, is worried that all this drug dealing could tarnish the stars of Hollywood Boulevard.
He explains, "We kind of think Hollywood Boulevard is our Times Square…There's a lot going right in Hollywood, but all that's in jeopardy if we can't fix that problem."
William Bratton, L.A's new police chief, takes credit for cleaning up Times Square when he held the top cop's spot in New York City. He says he hopes to do the same for Hollywood, but it could take a year or longer.