Local crime has fallen since last year, despite the recent break-ins, according to Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Waters. He and Hemet Station Capt. Ray Woods told the community, at a Town Hall meeting Thursday night, to call and report anything strange or unusual.
He stressed that calling the Sheriff’s Department to report something unusual or strange is not wasting their time.
“Bother us, that’s what you’re paying us for. We’re paid to respond,” Waters said with humor.
The Sheriff’s Department will investigate and the more often they are around the less frequently crimes are likely to occur.
According to Waters, four burglaries have occurred in Idyllwild since the beginning of 2015 compared to 13 during the same period last year. The break-ins at the Idyllwild Pharmacy and Town Hall are being actively investigated; however, a member of the audience claimed Arribas restaurant also was a victim, but Waters was not aware of that incident.
“We’re not immune to crime here. It can’t go to zero,” Waters said, but emphasized that vigilant residents can help the Sheriff’s Department reduce the problem. “We can’t do this without the community. We get the most amazing help from citizens on the Hill from Pine Cove to Aguanga.”
Besides knowing your neighbors and patterns, Waters advised installing alarms, preferably audible, and, if possible, video cameras. “It’s amazing, but they do help,” Waters said. “Cameras don’t stop crime but they do help us.”
While he acknowledged that many people come here for privacy and to avoid the pell-mell pace of urban environments, he still stressed that these simple acts would discourage criminals.
Business people ought to take cash out of registers overnight and, if possible, leave them open. “That would also discourage thieves from breaking them just to see if cash was available,” he said. “It tells crooks they’re taking a risk for nothing.”
The message was simply to call the Sheriff’s Department if one is concerned about seeing strange behavior in town or their neighborhood. Community vigilance is the critical difference, they stressed.
“We’re all in it together,” he stressed. “Even casually, you know the M.O. of your community.”
Call 911 in an emergency, which Waters described as someone injured, hurt or being threatened. Otherwise call the sheriff’s non-emergency number at 951-776-1099.
However, Wood did advise the audience that distance from Idyllwild was not the sole criterion affecting the response time. While he has placed more staff in the field since becoming captain of the Hemet Station, the reason for a call affects its priority. Someone in danger or a burglary in progress will take priority over a suspicious person walking the streets.
“If I assign one deputy to Idyllwild, it doesn’t mean that would be the only presence,” Wood said, in response to a question about staffing for the Hill. “We have flexibility depending upon the nature of the incident.”
Wood praised Waters’ efforts to implement Community Oriented Policing. And both officers lauded the Mountain Community Patrol, who represented about two-thirds of the audience.
“You’re volunteers and without folks like you, we’re at a disadvantage,” Waters said.
One member of MCP, Lou Padula, asked why more business owners were not present at the session. But neither Waters nor Wood could answer the inquiry.