Capt. Mike Alvarez (left) of the California Highway Patrol’s San Gorgonio office and Capt. Leonard Purvis (right) of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Hemet Station spoke to the Pine Cove Property Owners Association Saturday. Jerry Holldber (center), PCPOA board member, invited the law enforcement officials to visit and to discuss current issues. Photo by JP Crumrine

Attendees at the April Pine Cove Property Owners Association meeting heard from state and county law enforcement officials. 

Capt. Mike Alvarez of the California Highway Patrol’s San Gorgonio office spoke about CHP’s focus on distracted driving this month and local road conditions. 

Capt. Leonard Purvis of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Hemet Station discussed several issues including cannabis regulations and the importance of reporting incidents.

With two highway approaches to the Hill closed, Alvarez noted, “There has been a great decrease in injuries and fatal traffic collisions.” Historically, an unusually high number of collisions on the Hill involve fatalities, he added. But fewer fatal collisions is not entirely because of the road closures.

In 2018, there were five fatal crashes on Hill roads and all five victims were Hill residents. Alvarez added, “Mountain community residents were found ‘at fault’ for all five fatal collisions.”

This suggests that road closures are not the principal reason, consequently, Alvarez intends to continue aggressive traffic enforcement.

As another example, during the snow season, he assigned extra deputies to the Hill neighborhoods simply to enforce speed limits.

However, a major part of Alvarez’s message was how CHP is changing.

Education can be a means of prevention, he emphasized. And CHP is aware that the means to reach the public have changed. 

“We recognize the power of social media,” he shared with the Pine Cove audience. The San Gorgonio office has a Facebook page, a Twitter account and Instragram.

“Every month we have a new social media campaign,” Alvarez said. April is Distracted Driving Month.

Idyllwild has partially contributed to CHP’s awareness of the value of social media. As winter and snow season approached, CHP produced and posted a video about snow safety. “It took off,” he added. “It was beneficial getting Idyllwild’s message out.”

On Feb. 15, the day following the Valentine’s Day storm, which closed highways 74 and 243, Alvarez said, “No one understood the damage to our roadways. CHP posted a video, and it reached 55,000 views without a press conference.”

He then discussed the current road conditions. Alvarez has driven the road, seen drone videos and flown over it, too. “The progress is astounding. Caltrans is making progress,” he stated.

In response to a question about the apparent lack of visible CHP deputies on Highway 371 in the very early morning hours, Alvarez acknowledged the issue and would evaluate some changes that would ensure traffic enforcement during that new commuting period.

Purvis followed and mentioned that the Hemet Sheriff’s Station also has a Facebook page and Twitter account.

He repeated that two extra deputies patrol the Hill daily. “Because you’re isolated, I don’t want our officers to spend an hour and a half to get to here.”

Compared to last year, Purvis has not seen any increase in crime locally. “We do get a lot of traffic complaints and help CHP. During snow season, we had extra deputies here to supplement Capt. Alvarez’s team.”

When asked what the community can do to help [the sheriff or CHP] do a good job, Purvis’ answer was one which he has urged residents to do before. 

“I encourage people to call for everything. I’m incident- and issue-driven. We need you to call for issues, problems, or even concerns,” he stressed. The Hemet Station number is 951-776-1099. 

In response to a question regarding whether homeless individuals were a law enforcement problem, Purvis stressed that homelessness is not a crime. When the Sheriff’s Department responds to a call involving a homeless individual, one of its first actions is to offer the person services, including some food and temporary lodging.

“Many don’t accept. And if necessary, we’ll arrest if they are committing a crime such as trespassing,” Purvis added.

When asked about the current cannabis regulations, he explained that Riverside County has not yet issued any licenses or permits for commercial growing or retail of cannabis. County planning is reviewing applications now.

“Possession of more than 24 plants is illegal,” he said.