Until a deadly double stabbing on June 11, Albatros Mexican restaurant was familiar to sheriff's deputies mainly as a spot for late-night burritos—not criminal activity.
But on this occasion, a 2 a.m. fight between four men and three women in the after-hours hangout had escalated, leading to the slayings of Elvis Kechechian and Hossain Saidian in the parking lot.
The restaurant was quickly cordoned off with yellow tape and more than 60 witnesses were interviewed to determine how the altercation unfolded.
Since then, some observers have insinuated—directly and indirectly—that the eatery and its all-night hours attract a bad element. They suggest trouble was inevitable.
But the hard numbers contradict that perception.
Records gathered by Lake Forest Police Services show that in the last 18 months, authorities fielded only 11 calls from the address of the 24-hour establishment on Rockfield Boulevard, near Lake Forest Drive.
"It's really, really minimal as far as calls for service," Sheriff's Department Sgt. Angel Andrade said. "It could be people arguing, people being drunk, being dumb," but the frequency—an average of one call every seven weeks— "is nothing significant."
Also, some of those calls likely came from other businesses at the same address, which is home to a number of lettered suites.
In contrast, deputies are dispatched to Walmart in Foothill Ranch a few times a month, Lake Forest Police Services Chief Lt. Patrick Higa said.
"We don't consider Walmart a high-crime area ... but we get more calls there than we get at Albatros," he said. Calls for service don't necessarily indicate a dangerous area, he added, noting that the Walmart reports deal primarily with shoplifting.
After Kechechian's death, deputies immediately began reviewing crime data for Albatros to make sure it matched their perception of the restaurant as a relatively peaceful hangout.
Andrade said the deadly encounter on June 11, although sad and unfortunate, was simply not a reflection of the eatery's day-to-day happenings.
"Because it was a homicide, obviously our people will make it a point to drive through there maybe a little more often," Andrade said, but not because the restaurant is a hotbed of seediness.
Still, Higa confirmed rumors that Albatros' owner hired a private security firm to work at the restaurant seven days a week in the aftermath of the deadly stabbings.
Just after midnight early last Saturday, nearly one week to the hour after the stabbings, Albatros was quiet, as if nothing had ever happened.
The one exception was a man wearing a T-shirt with "security" written in small letters, slouched on a barstool outside the door, eyeing each entrant while keeping watch on a group of high school-age males talking animatedly in the parking lot.
Although there is no downside to hiring nighttime security, violent crimes like the June 11 stabbings are very difficult to prevent, Higa sad.
"[With] crimes of violence, there is no predictor for that because you're dealing with the human element," he said. "If it can happen [at Albatros], it can happen anywhere."