Local business owners met last week to consider adopting a coordinated response to the recent spate of commercial burglaries. About 30 people, according to organizers, met on Friday, Jan. 4, at the Idyllwild Fire Station to discuss a range of options that business owners could take to deter further commercial burglaries.
Business owners discussed possible options including employing a private security company to patrol during the hours that most of the recent commercial burglaries have occurred (late night, early morning), creating a volunteer business owner patrol, or beefing up the Mountain Community Patrol with more volunteers that could patrol extended hours.
The problem with increasing MCP staffing, according to RCSD Deputy Walter Kurtz, or putting another volunteer patrol under the aegis of the Sheriff’s Department, is the time to conduct background checks for volunteers could be three to four months. Also, the difference between a private security patrol and MCP or a business owner patrol is that private contracted response would be armed and the others would not be.
Complicating the issue is reduced staffing at Hemet Station, the Sheriff’s Department station in Valle Vista is responsible for Hill patrols. Hill patrols include a very wide swath of mountain territory from Pinyon and Anza to Idyllwild and north to Poppet Flat. Reduced staffing means that only one RSCD car is allocated to the Hill at any time, but off Hill emergencies or incidents could divert it elsewhere.
A deputy from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department attended the meeting at the invitation of business organizers.
Idyllwild business owners said they felt the need to convene and respond because of reduced staffing and patrols at Hemet Station (see separate interview with Hemet Station officers). The objective of business owners, in whatever strategies they agree to and adopt, is to keep criminals off guard with increased patrols and to let them know that there is no longer an open door.
“I thought the meeting was very productive,” said Larry Donahoo, Village Hardware owner and fire commissioner. He also thought that MCP would not be the right fit for the job being contemplated — i.e. late night and early morning hour patrols.
Business owners and other interested parties next meet at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 11, at Town Hall for further planning.