Burglaries in Idyllwild used to be a rare occurrence. The Sheriff’s reports were usually dominated with incidents in other Hill areas. In the past month Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has reported nine incidents in Idyllwild. Reported were a felony grand theft at a local campground and six burglaries — three residential, one business, one vehicle, one residential attempted burglary and one vehicle theft. In addition, a misdemeanor incident involving vandalism and petty theft was also reported.
These incidents exclude several attempted burglaries and petty theft incidents which occurred Friday, Feb. 10, in Idyllwild. According to Merrie Von Seggern, Sheriff’s deputies responded, but incident reports have not yet been published.
Locals are beginning to voice concerns about the apparent uptick in crime, often targeting unoccupied second homes. In response to questions about department reponse to Hill incidents, Hemet Station Lt. Geoffrey Raya said that the station’s policy, given staffing reductions, is to dispatch deputies to in-progress incidents, what the station calls priority one incidents — those in progress or in which there could be danger to a resident or law enforcement personnel.
For the most part, other crimes receive telephone reports. “But you can always request a deputy come to take a report or investigate,” said Raya. “It might not be that same day, but a deputy will come if you request it. And response will be prioritized if you request it.” Raya also advised residents to report all crimes. “Without reports we have no knowledge of crime trends in particular areas,” he said.
County budget projections for the next year forecast a 3 percent cut in public safety budgets (see story on page 19) which will further impact deputy staffing ratios for the unincorporated areas of the county including Idyllwild/Pine Cove. Already Hemet Station has dropped its community policing policy for the Hill in which there were two deputies on the Hill on a daily basis. Staffing ratios are now .75 deputies per 1,000 residents and can actually be lower on any particular day depending on emergent needs in other areas. “Response times have been pretty good,” said Raya, notwithstanding the staff reductions. “We call people in from other teams and use additional resources to maintain that .75/1000 level.”
But Raya also advised that Idyllwild residents should participate in crime prevention by organizing community meetings and neighborhood watches. “What you really need is a continued interest within the community and a willingness to take some responsibility,” said Raya. He noted his station has an administrative deputy who can attend community meetings to advise residents how to make their homes, especially second homes, less of a target for burglars and how to organize neighborhood watches.
RCSD Chief Deputy Mitch Alm said that when there are spikes in criminal activity, such as has occurred recently in Idyllwild, the department can deploy additional resources to investigate and respond to that activity in a concentrated operation. “I’ve advised the department to conduct a crime analysis of recent events in Idyllwild, to review the temporary uptick,” he said. “They’ll put together a plan for response.
“But in general, the communities that are more participatory [in crime prevention] have the lowest crime rates. You’ve got to be engaged with community meetings, community watches, and volunteerism. The eyes and ears of a community are the most effective deterrents.” Alm did acknowledge that with budget reductions affecting county jails, courts and all areas of law enforcement, patrols in the unincorporated areas have taken a large hit. “Budget reductions were board [of Supervisors] mandated,” he said.