Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff visited Idyllwild last week and met with the Town Crier owners and publishers Becky and Jack Clark, News Editor JP Crumrine and Staff Reporter Marshall Smith.
Photo by JP Crumrine

Despite money woes, crime down first half of 2017

Last week, Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff visited Idyllwild. During his discussion with the Town Crier regarding the Sheriff’s Department budget and other activities, he mentioned the department’s recently released crime statistics for the first six months of 2017.

All reported crime in Riverside County increased 2.4 percent over 2016, which is lower than the 4-percent increase in 2016 over the previous year.

More importantly, violent crime decreased 13.1 percent in the county compared to a 14-percent increase a year ago. Homicides declined from 30 in the first six months of 2016 to 20 in 2017.Even in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County, homicides were fewer this year than in 2016 (eight compared to 11 in 2016).

Even in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County, homicides were fewer this year than in 2016 (eight compared to 11 in 2016).

The overall trends in crime throughout the county were seen in the unincorporated areas as well. Other than homicides, overall violent crime was down 16 percent. The number of rapes was fewer, too.

The major difference between the county and the unincorporated areas was that the percentage of vehicle thefts grew in the unincorporated areas, up 9 percent, while vehicle thefts in the whole county were down 4.5 percent.

Even with crime declining during the beginning of 2017, Sniff expressed concern about future events. The Benoit Detention Center is scheduled to be completed and ready for operation late next summer.

“We need money for positions,” he said. The $17.9 million that the Board of Supervisors added to the sheriff’s budget enables the department to maintain current staffing. “It won’t fund new positions, just maintain the status quo.”

Further reductions, which have already decimated staffing for the unincorporated areas, will stop. “It will be 18 months to two years to repair the damage,” Sniff said.

But staffing for the Benoit center has not started and new staff must go through months of training before they can take on these types of assignments, including patrol.

The press release emphasized that “Patrol staffing in the County’s unincorporated areas is set through discretionary funding established each year by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors … the Sheriff’s countywide workforce has been reduced by 10 percent over the past two years to meet sharply reduced budget targets for the agency as the County grapples with its stark fiscal challenges.”

When the County budget results in reductions for the Sheriff’s Department, staffing in the unincorporated areas and jails absorb the brunt of the cuts. The support to the contract cities cannot be reduced, since the cities, such as San Jacinto, are paying for that specific staffing level.

Altogether, the sheriff is responsible for policing nearly 1.4 million residents of the county’s population of about 2.4 million.  Annually, Sheriff’s Department dispatchers receive more than 1.6 million phone calls from the public and dispatch nearly 900,000 calls for service, with nearly a third being in-progress calls for service, according to the press release.