Mountain Community Patrol members posed for a photo at their recent meeting. Seated, from left, Rush Strong and 2nd Vice President Judi Milin. Standing, from left, Marilyn Kemple, Reba Coulter, Treasurer Annamarie Padula, Barbara Maring, Elaine and Bob Rahman, Member-at-large Dan Maring, President Jon Engel and Riverside County Sheriff’s Hemet Station Administrative Sergeant/MCP Liaison Frank Tiburzio. Other officers not shown are 1st Vice President Tom Pierce, Secretary Barbara Jones and Member-at-large Lou Paddula. Photo by Debra Varnado

Lacking a sufficient number of volunteers to perform its duties at a community-wide event last year, the Idyllwild Mountain Community Patrol board is now struggling to build its numbers and posing questions concerning the future of the organization.

At its March 1 meeting, the board agenda included discussion of an item entitled “Motion to consult with an attorney regarding dissolving the MCP.”

The item was requested by 1st Vice President Tom Pierce, but was tabled because of his absence due to illness.

Pierce’s request comes on the heels of an acknowledgement by the group of a shortage of volunteers at last year’s Independence Day Parade, and outcry over the Riverside County Sheriff Department’s lengthy process for approving new volunteers.

Dissolving the organization would have a ripple effect on the Hill and at the Hemet Sheriff Station, as both depend on the nonprofit organization to be the sheriff’s “eyes and ears” on the Hill.

MCP helps to prevent crime through patrol and surveillance. It facilitates public safety during community-wide annual events that attract thousands of participants and spectators.

The MCP volunteers — aka “The Yellow Jackets” — handle crowd and traffic control, and intersection closures for Idyllwild’s 5K and 10K Run and Fitness Walk; the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony; and the Halloween and July 4th parades.

“Our current roster includes 18 volunteers,” MCP president Jon Engel said, “and usually everyone is active.”

“Previously, I’ve been able to shut down North Circle, and handle the parade and traffic stops with 19 people,” Bob Rahman, MCP’s July 4th parade coordinator, said.

  “Last year, I had 12 people and had to get the Rotary Club [to help] … I just passed off half of our responsibilities to them and told them, ‘You have got to take care of such-and-such intersections,’ which they did.

“They were scrambling and had to get help from the PTA, and I don’t know who else — and none of those people is familiar with directing traffic or blocking highways.

“Twelve people doesn’t cut it. It is a real issue and this year I am not sure we can do it. We might have to write a letter to the Rotary and say we can’t do it this year. I don’t want that to happen, but it is a possibility.

“We have to be able to do [the parade] professionally, properly and safely. We have always worked hand-in-hand with them in controlling traffic.

“One of our members has brought up, ‘Maybe we should dissolve.’ I don’t want to see that happen, [but] we’re getting smaller and smaller.

“We have to get more members because people are starting to walk away from this group.”

The MCP has lost members due to relocation off the Hill and illness, and younger people are not volunteering and getting involved in the community.

Most of the current MCP volunteers are older adults. The 10 members attending the March 1 meeting have between three and 24 years of service.

In order to be considered for MCP membership, volunteers must have interest in the position; be of good moral character; have no major criminal record; complete an oral interview and a background investigation; and submit a complete application and background paperwork.

At the meeting, members strongly objected to the length of the current application, saying: “The form was maybe 10 pages” when they applied. They suggested the current application is “30 or more pages.”

Engel agreed, “It is more extensive now.”

Members present also said the entire approval process takes: “Six to 12 months, and in one case, up to two years.”

“[People] show an interest and then we can’t get them in.”

“We’re shrinking and dissolving ... because we can’t get new members. Volunteers won’t wait through the process. We’ve had several people say, ‘Forget it.’”

Engel said, “The approval process is probably our biggest concern. I don’t see the necessity [of that amount of time] for what we do.

“Our live scans can be done in a matter of days and should be more than sufficient for what we do, as opposed to the department’s full background check that is done … for somebody who wants to be a sheriff.

“None of us carries a gun. We are not going to be arresting anyone.”

Sgt. Frank Tiburzio was introduced at the meeting. He serves as the new administrative sergeant for Hemet Sheriff’s Station, replacing Sgt. Ron Lawler.

As the new liaison to the MCP, Tiburzio said, “I’d hate to see the group dissolve. … what are we going to do for all the events up here? We can’t have you dissolving.

“I’ll bring this to the attention of our lieutenant … and do the best I can to see if we can get other eyes and other helpers assisting on these background packets. We will do whatever we can to help and accommodate applicants through the process.”

Tiburzio said the previous volunteer liaison to the MCP, Deputy Frank James, “is out handling calls for service, an extra car in the field. He did his best, but all deputies are now on patrol.

“Like other businesses or governmental organizations, we have a process and that depends on what kind of workload we have … working with other divisions …”

Tiburzio asked the group to have patience: “I’ll never be able to change what is required, but I’ll be able to change the speed.”

MCP volunteers receive 40 hours of free basic training and information on: crowd and traffic control; first aid; Automated External Defibrillator; Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation; emergency management; crime scene protection/preservation and dealing with the public; and driver awareness.

Members patrol and provide surveillance of neighborhoods and businesses in Idyllwild and Pine Cove. Their vehicles — an SUV and a Crown Victoria — are furnished by the department.

“We patrol day and night and do not apprehend. We are strictly ‘observe and report.’ We do not put ourselves in harm’s way at all,” Engel said.

“And we’re an information source when we walk around the Fort and on North Circle. People will come up ... and ask us questions.”

Tiburzio said, “I know it is important for you … to be that communication device between the Hill and the Sheriff’s Department, to keep your community safe, to observe and report.

“I completely understand your motivation for what you are trying to achieve; I just want to make sure you know the Sheriff’s Department is here for you.”

In other business, Dan Marin discussed different types of fire extinguishers and their care. He demonstrated the proper use of a small ABC extinguisher to safely put out a mock household fire.

For more information on MCP, email Engel at jonengel1@yahoo.com.

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