Living in a small mountain town that is unincorporated has its challenges, especially when it comes to emergencies. We are far away from the hustle and bustle of the city and, unfortunately, from law enforcement stations and hospitals.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) patrols the entire mountain, but resources are generally spread thin and at times the response time can be slow. However, there are things that can be done by the community to help RCSD provide better resources.
Capt. Leonard Purvis of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Hemet substation in Valle Vista is in charge of the deputies that are assigned to this area.
“My commitment is to have a deputy patrolling the hill at all times,” Purvis said. “But people need to call, they need to help us. Call even if it’s minimal because the more calls we get, then we know there’s a need.”
There have been mixed reactions within the community when asked if they feel they will be heard when they call 911, or if they are deterred from calling because they don’t feel a deputy will show up in time when faced with an emergency.
Longtime Idyllwild resident Desiree Zimmerman said, “Whether or not I think they can or will show up quickly never deters me from calling. If I get to the place where a call needs to be made, I have been pushed past all other solutions whether the issue is neighbor problems, illegal parking or emergency situations. I know they do the best that they can with what they have.”
Even visitors to the mountain have dealt with the delay in deputies’ response time.
“I was up there on Jan. 2 and two guys were in a fistfight near Fairway Market,” Wayne Clemons Jr. of Palm Springs said. “I called the sheriff at 3:15 p.m. and waited 30 minutes for a deputy to arrive, but I eventually left because they stopped fighting. When I got back down the hill, I received a call at 7:30 p.m. asking if the people were still fighting.”
This is an all-too-common occurrence, but some residents have had a more positive experience with response times and actions.
“I called once and they met me at the school within 10 minutes,” said local Zoe Mejia.
Another Idyllwild local Beth Severance called in regards to a large crowd that was being loud late into the evening.
“A female deputy showed up in maybe 40 minutes and took care of the problem,” Severance said. “She was cordial, respectful and firm with the large crowd of young males. My experience was positive.”
Regardless of people’s experience, a big change that is in the works for the mountain is the possibility of reopening the Lake Hemet substation. If that were to happen, it would allow for there to be a resident deputy, which would likely result in quicker response times.
“We want to open the substation at Lake Hemet, basically like a little police department,” Purvis said. “That’s a big push to Sheriff Chad Bianco. It would be amazing to have and hopefully we can do it the next fiscal year. We just need people to keep reporting. I know they get frustrated, but I need to know stats for further action to be taken.”
Another thing that the public doesn’t realize is that RCSD doesn’t handle traffic calls — that falls on the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
“A lot of calls we get are traffic-related, but we don’t handle that,” said Purvis. “That’s CHP’s job. But we go out and assist, which is something I want to do for Idyllwild. CHP does an amazing job and we work well together. If we can’t solve it, we try to look for the proper agency to help.”
The bottom line is the community needs to feel safe and heard and RCSD needs the reporting to justify adding more resources.
“Resources are limited sometimes, but we are trying our best to be responsive,” said Purvis. “I don’t want the community to give up. I just want them to keep reporting the issues and problems. I’m committed to serving Idyllwild and keeping the community safe.”