Hemet Station Lt. Dean Agnoletto. Photo by Marshall Smith
In a meeting with Town Crier staff at Hemet Station in Valle Vista, Lt. Dean Agnoletto and Sgt. Wallace Clear reviewed recent commercial burglaries in Idyllwild and Lake Hemet, station response, and limits placed on both investigation and response by reduced staffing.

Agnoletto confirmed that there are, as yet, no suspect leads for the seven incidents that have recently targeted commercial businesses in Idyllwild and Lake Hemet Campground.

“We have had Investigator [Brian] Robertson go up to look at similarities in the burglaries,” Clear said. Even with some fingerprint dusting, the department has been unable to confirm any matches with available databases, he added.

Agnoletto explained that surveillance videos have yet to confirm evidentiary data that could be used for prosecution.

“It’s all circumstantial at this point,” Agnoletto said. He also noted the severe constraints that reduced staffing and having only one car on the Hill place on effective patrolling.

“The mountaintop area we patrol is very large,” he acknowledged. “And at any time, off-Hill violent incidents could require that [assigned Hill] deputy to come down the Hill to bolster response to violent incidents. Violence always trumps.”

Agnoletto said that incident dispatch is based on the concept of triage — the most serious offenses draw the most immediate response and can, in fact, divert station resources from the Hill.

Nevertheless, Agnoletto said, a program is in place and has been for a month to identify and apprehend the Hill commercial burglars. “It is not something we can talk about at this point,” he said.

Both Agnoletto and Clear spoke positively about the coalescence of local business owners to consider and adopt commercial burglary response strategies. But he cautioned about the effectiveness of mounting late-night patrols by the Mountain Community Patrol.

“We’re cautious about how we use our volunteers,” Agnoletto said. He wondered how effective current MCP volunteers would be at the hours
apparently needed (late night and early morning), and also expressed concern for their safety. With commercial burglaries,
Agnoletto noted criminals are often of a different breed and caliber and require greater caution and awareness by citizen reporters and volunteers.

“Citizens are always the most effective eyes and ears within a community. Whether part of an organized volunteer group or just as individuals, ordinary citizens throughout the county are honored each year for their contributions to crime deterrence. Call dispatch (951) 776-1099 if you see something in progress, request a deputy and a call back on status,” he advised.

Sgt. Clear recommended Hill businesses install and set alarms, including those clearly audible both inside and outside the business. He noted silent alarms may work in metropolitan areas but are less effective in rural areas far from official responders.