On Saturday, Capt. Leonard Purvis of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Hemet Station was in Idyllwild to discuss the recent series of crimes. Here he is speaking to the public at Town Hall and earlier in the day, he attended the Pine Cove Property Owners Association meeting. Photo by JP Crumrine

About 20 people took time from the busy Labor Day weekend to attend a not-widely announced public session with Capt. Leonard Purvis of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Hemet Station, who came to Idyllwild Saturday morning, Sept. 2, to discuss the local crime conditions.

He first visited with the Pine Cove Property Owners Association and later in the morning, he was the speaker at a community meeting held at Town Hall. About 20 residents, both full- and part-time, were interested in the topic, despite the heat and holiday activities.

Not only was Purvis here to answer questions, he wanted to learn about the concerns of Hill residents.

Initial fears were about organized gangs establishing a foothold in Idyllwild in order to sell drugs.

Purvis popped that balloon with his response that “… hasn’t been on our radar. There is no major crime syndicate here. It’s mostly a homeless issue and problem.”

And he stressed that homelessness is not a crime, and he agreed as one audience member stressed, “It’s not just the homeless.”

Purvis said his staff will track the known criminals who are in jail and when they are released. This often follows a pattern of either fewer or more crimes.

But the recent spate of home and business crimes seem to be “crimes of opportunities, and frustration increases as crime is committed,” he said. In the past, there were patterns related to the time of day, but “… it’s happening all day now.”

The object of these break-ins, in Purvis’s opinion, is to steal property, which can be converted to cash, necessary to buy drugs, including methamphetamine and even heroin. While the sources may be off the Hill, when the need exists, the individuals find a way to obtain the drug.

Treating the homeless compassionately and with empathy is appropriate. But a small number will take advantage of this assistance, according to Purvis.

Individuals who frequently return for more or new clothing and utensils may be discarding them when they leave the Hill for drugs and need new supplies when they return, he advised.

Purvis advocated that residents install security cameras around their homes. New systems permit remote access so that homes can be monitored in real time from anywhere.

Several people asked how they could join the Mountain Community Patrol. New members will have background checks, fingerprints and modest training through the Sheriff’s Department. But the formation and active role for Neighborhood Watch units is very effective, Purvis added.

Marlene Pierce, a member of MCP, attended and explained that MCP members can “… only observe and report. They are not allowed to arrest suspects.”

Another individual asked about the possibility of greater use of community service officers. Unfortunately, Purvis replied, the current sheriff’ budget condition does not provide enough money to hire additional CSOs. Just as importantly, the CSO has other functions to serve, such as transporting prisoners, which would limit the time to patrol the Hill.

When asked about citizens who are armed and defend themselves, Purvis emphasized that, while it is an additional tool, they must firmly believe an intruder is presenting an immediate threat to them or their family in order to defend shooting at them. If an imminent threat is not clearly present, deadly force cannot be justified.

When asked about the marijuana dispensaries in town, Purvis repeated that they are currently illegal. The Sheriff’s Department and Code Enforcement are trying to stop them, but it is a misdemeanor and the sheriff doesn’t have enough resources to constantly enforce the code ordinance when they must respond to crimes — bodily and property.

“Until a new county licensing process comes to fruition, any dispensaries in unincorporated areas are illegal,” he said.

Before finishing, Purvis said citizens who believe a crime is occurring should call 951-776-1099 or 911 if it is an emergency.