Hemet Station Capt. Leonard Purvis speaks about the local crime situation and conditions to a group of Hill residents who attended a meeting Monday evening at Town Hall. Photo by JP Crumrine

Local residents are taking steps to employ a private security firm to patrol Idyllwild late at night. This effort would augment town security as the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department budget cuts have reduced the number of deputies.

At a second Town Hall meeting Monday night, Dan Hinojosa, the operation manager for Valley Forge Private Security in Hemet, and Capt. Leonard Purvis of the Sheriff’s Department Hemet Station, addressed a crowd of more than 50 people.

Joel Feingold, one of several people helping to organize the private effort, introduced Hinojosa. “It’s a push back [against the recent crime] in a legal manner with higher security,” Feingold said, describing the group’s plan.

The initial effort, which will begin shortly, will likely have VFPS patrol the business area from Fern Valley Corners to the Idyllwild Community Center neighborhood between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“I’m here to roam in the city while you are sleeping,” Hinojosa told everyone. “I want these people to know you take it on your own to stop crime.”

Several local businesses have agreed to contribute $100 monthly toward this security effort. Feingold said eight to 10 have already joined and a private benefactor is willing to match the town’s funding.

Dan Hinojosa, the operations manager for Valley Forge Private Security of Hemet, spoke to local residents at the Town Hall meeting regarding his firm’s ability to deter break-ins and burglaries.
Photo by JP Crumrine

“If they are hired, great,” Purvis said. “I’ll put them in contact with my Deputy James for this area.”

During the meeting, several attendees asked questions about patrols in residential neighborhoods. Hinojosa and Feingold both said individuals could contribute $25 to $50 a month. “You can have us to patrol your house, too,” Hinojosa offered.

Until VFPS starts and establishes a routine, he invited calls to him if a resident detects a possible neighborhood crime or threat. “I can network with you,” he said.

When questioned about his authority to make arrests, Hinojosa, a former Marine, stressed that his goal is always to prevent a crime. He repeated often, “to be a deterrent.”

In his experience, a potential thief will abort their effort when confronted with the presence of security, especially when armed, and Hinojosa will be armed and accompanied by Dillon, his German shepherd.

He compared his company’s “para-policing” to the more familiar “paramedical”: “We’re one step under law enforcement.”

While he does not have the legal authority of a California peace officer, Hinojosa assured the crowd he can make and has made citizen arrests when a perpetrator will not leave the private property Hinojosa has been hired to protect.

In response to another question about what residents can do to help prevent or combat these break-ins, Purvis advocated the acquisition and installation of camera equipment around a residence.

These “home videos” are used more frequently to prosecute thieves, he noted. Also, he encouraged “know your neighbor.” Being familiar with neighbors, establishing a neighborhood watch and getting involved with the Mountain Community Patrol group are positive actions to deter crime.

When asked about the source of the recent break-ins, Purvis again attributed it a segment of the homeless population who have become drug addicts. This is not limited to Idyllwild. It is spreading across Southern California, he added.

“They’re stealing anything not nailed down to support their drug problem.” He also stressed that homelessness is not the crime.

Since his staff has been cut, one audience member asked if other law enforcement agencies such as the California Highway Patrol, the State Park ranger or U.S. Forest Service law enforcement could be counted on for help.

In response, Purvis assured people that if his staff could not get to Idyllwild in time, he has other resources, such as these agencies, to use for collaboration.

For those interested in participating in the private security support, contact Hinojosa at 951-390-3729.