Private surveillance seems to be helping

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Three months later, the presence of a night-time security team seems to have dissipated the conversation about a crime wave submerging the Hill.

In September, after a series of public meetings discussing the growing threat of crimes on the Hill, a group of local business people and residents contracted with Valley Forge Private Security in Hemet.

Led by Dan Hinojosa, its operation manager, VFPS has had someone patrol the business areas of Idyllwild four to five nights weekly. The actual days and exact hours rotate weekly so that a pattern does not create criminal opportunities.

“I think we’ve done a really well,” said Joel Feingold, one of those instrumental in obtaining the assistance of VFPS. “There is no perfect solution. A lot of businesses look for and count on Danny.”

During this period, Hinojosa has had some encounters with possible criminal acts and break-ins, but Feingold said nothing major has occurred.

While the presence of VFPS and Hinojosa driving along North Circle Drive or parked in an easily seen space seems to have contributed to the diminishment of the break-ins, Hinojosa has contributed other vital services beyond crime stopping to the town’s safety and benefit.

Some of the late-night establishments have asked Hinojosa to escort or to help a patron get home safely, according to Feingold.

Kelly Cooper, co-owner of Idyology, says she is very happy to have Hinojosa and VFPS in the area. She has requested some help aiding customers.

She stressed that these occurrences were for their safety, and unrelated to any security or danger in the area.

Another example is the night Hinojosa helped a visiting family find their lost child.

Hinojosa’s contributions are not all that simple. “There was a lot petty crime and vandalizing of businesses going on and not reported,” Feingold said. “But with a plan, someone is watching Idyllwild. The bad guys don’t like that stuff.”

More than a dozen local businesses share the cost of VFPS, according to Feingold. The contract with VFPS will continue as long as the financial support is available, he added.

Feingold added that the group is prepared to offer some watchful vigilance to local residents for probably $25; VFPS can drive by one home and check security in the neighborhood.

Gisela Stearns is one local resident who expressed concern about what was happening in Idyllwild. But she feels better now. “We have the blessing of the Sheriff’s Department. They came to the meetings and said, ‘Protect yourself.” It’s the only security we have. [The sheriff] can’t reach us fast enough. But the bad guys know at night we have a security guard.”

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