Idyllwild’s Mountain Community Patrol has expanded their surveillance role to include residential areas, specifically daytime patrols of around 31 Idyllwild properties listed as abandoned, foreclosed or bank owned.
So far, MCP patrols have discovered two of the 31 occupied, even though the foreclosed properties they are tasked to inspect are supposed to be vacant. “We just make a note of what we’ve seen and report it,” said John Edmiston, MCP head.
Although they are sworn volunteers as part of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, MCP members carry no weapons and have no law enforcement responsibilities other than to report. They function as an extended presence within the community for the sheriff’s department, providing greater law enforcement visibility. For years MCP has patrolled the downtown business core, checking to see if doors are properly locked and businesses are otherwise secured. “We complete both walking and vehicle patrols,” said Edmiston.
This particular patrol expansion into Idyllwild’s residential areas is at the request of Riverside County Code Enforcement, in an April 23 email from Michael Sanders, senior code enforcement officer. The email notes that homes listed may be in some stage of default and therefore occupied and that confidentiality about the specific addresses is important given Idyllwild’s “tight knit” character.
When asked why these patrols are at code enforcement’s request rather than the sheriff’s department, Edmiston said it was because code enforcement does not have the staff to conduct these regular inspections and that the county, as outlined in Ordinance 881, is obligated to ensure that abandoned and distressed residential properties do not pose dangers to public safety.
Edmiston said he feels the expanded visibility in residential areas is good for the community. “When people see what we’re doing, they’re nothing but smiles,” he said. And that includes his volunteers. “Usually when you ask more of volunteers, there could be problems, but they were very happy to do this,” he said. “I was a bit surprised. They were enthused about going into the residential areas and doing something more for the town.” Patrols conduct visual inspections of foreclosed properties. If they encounter any evidence the property is not properly secured (doors or windows open, windows broken or any out of the ordinary indicators), they summarize and report. “So far, out of the 25 we’ve already inspected, we’ve found two occupied but none of the others unsecured,” said Edmiston. He also noted volunteers report any other evidence they see of unsecured homes, even those not on their list of foreclosures. “If we see something suspicious or out of the ordinary as part of our visual inspections, especially of a home with a “For Sale” sign on it, we report it to the sheriff.
Edmiston wanted event sponsors to know that requests for MCP assistance with event traffic control must be made at least 30 days prior to the event.