CHP Capt. Gregory Peck speaks to the crowd during Supervisor Jeff Stone’s Idyllwild Public Safety Summit Monday evening. Photo by Barbara Reese

In response to recent crime escalation in Idyllwild, 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone assembled top public safety agency officials to talk to Idyllwild residents about issues of crime and public safety on the Hill.

Thomas McEntee, General manager for AMR in Riverside County. Photo by Barbara Reese
Looking out over the small crowd, Stone began by saying, “I have assembled a lot of people to talk to you about their areas of expertise in regard to public safety. We did not bring first line staff. We thought it important to have the actual decision makers that work with the Board of Supervisors to talk with you.

“I know that you’re very concerned about events that have been happening up here on the Hill and you have every right to be concerned. Unfortunately, our economy has not been turning around as quickly as we would like and as a result there has been an uptick in local crime,” he said.

Stone discussed how the economic downturn has forced the county to make difficult cuts that have affected sheriff patrols and response times in the unincorporated areas, including the Hill. He noted that before the downturn the county had $800 million annually in discretionary funds to use to enhance public safety. “We have $525 million today and the assessor [Riverside County Assessor Larry Ward] has told us that we are looking at another 1.5 percent decline in assessed [property] values this year.”

First to speak after Stone’s introductions was Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Hemet Station Commander Capt. Scot Collins.

Collins noted that the surge in property crime in the Idyllwild area has not abated.

“We’re still in that surge,” he said. Collins said he would mount operations to let the likely local criminals know that the Sheriff’s Department is a continuing presence and that it will arrest law-breakers.

“You will see some presence on the Hill. We’ll have some different ways for the bad guys to know that we know where they are and that we will put our foot on their necks,” he said.

Both Collins and Stone said that if more volunteers sign up for the Mountain Community Patrol that they would secure more cars. “We depend on the number of volunteers,” Collins said. “We still have some crooks in town and we need to police our own.”

“I’ll work with the sheriff to get more cars and radios if we get more volunteers,” Stone said. An MCP volunteer said that they would soon begin daytime residential patrols.

Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins assured residents that his department is well positioned to respond to emergencies and that regardless of the disposition of the Idyllwild Fire Department contract for Pine Cove ambulance service, there would be no interruption of service to that community. Both Hawkins and American Medical Response General Manager Tom McEntee assured attending Pine Cove residents that contingency plans are in place and there would be no interruption of ambulance service anywhere on the Hill.

Other speakers included interim Idyllwild Fire Protection District Chief Mike Sherman who discussed budget and policy revisions that have put his department on a sounder footing; California Highway Patrol Captain Gregory Peck who assured attendees that his department would again mount unannounced motorcycle stings; and Riverside County Code Enforcement Director Glen Baude who talked about how to report violations and who to talk to in his department.

Riverside County Probation Department Chief Alan Crogan spoke about how inmate realignment from state prisons to county jail is affecting the county. He explained how it has resulted in more inmates being held for longer periods in local jails and how the inmate overcrowding problem has been moved from state to county, as have the expenses for increased maintenance and parole supervision. He also talked about programs that are in place to reduce recidivism.

Attendee Anna Marie Padula commented that meager attendance — fewer than 50 — at the forum was “embarrassing.” “This was an important meeting,” she said.

Nevertheless attendees such as Reba Coulter, Idyllwild, thought the information was very helpful. “It wasn’t just phone numbers, but names of people. I’m glad I came,” she said.

Local public safety phone numbers
Numbers and names shared at Public Safety Summit (all area codes are 951 unless noted):

  • Riverside County Sheriff’s Department front desk 791-3412
  • Emergency number – 911; non-emergency crime reporting 776-1099
  • California Highway Patrol – 769-2000
  • Riverside County Office of Emergency Services – 955-4700
  • Riverside County Code Enforcement – 600-6140 (ask for Mike Sanders, Greg Flannery, Director Glen Baude)
  • Third District Supervisor Jeff Stone – (866) 383-2203; or 698-7326
Capt. Scot Collins, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Hemet Station Commander, spoke to Monday’s crowd about Idyllwild’s recent surge in property crime. Photo by Barbara Reese