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Crime Statistics, Homeless Outreach, Emergency Medical Response Discussed at Sponsor Group Meeting

 

Last updated 5/19/2022 at 1:06pm



In keeping with the times, the May meeting of the Sponsor Group was a hybrid meeting, that is, there were an equal number of people who attended the meeting in-person at the Borrego Springs Library, and online via Zoom. While there were some minor audio hiccups at the start of the meeting, and later when people attending in-person did not speak into the handheld microphone, we expect that these glitches will resolve in future meetings as attendees gather more facility with the hybrid meeting concept.

The next meeting of the Sponsor Group, scheduled for June 2, 2022, 5 p.m., will also be hybrid, i.e., attendees may either come to the Borrego Springs Library or participate via Zoom. Please see details at the end of this report.

The first two topics on the agenda were related to homelessness, meth use, and the perception of a recent uptick in crime in Borrego Springs. Representatives from the County Sheriff’s office, Sergeant Brian Jenkins, Lieutenant Cliff Rinder, and Deputy Sheriff Cory Crawford, were in attendance. Deputy Cory Crawford is one of two officers posted to Borrego Springs. Also in attendance was Barbara Jiménez, Community Operations Officer, Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities, Health and Human Services Agency, County of San Diego.

Sergeant Jenkins started the discussion by pointing out that his team of seven covers the entire rural backcountry of San Diego County that includes Pine Valley, Julian, Warner Springs, Borrego Springs, a total area of 1500 square miles! He assured the attendees that crime statistics show that Borrego Springs is relatively crime-free. “But,” he said that he understood that, “if you are the victim of a crime, you probably don’t care about crime statistics.”

Nevertheless, he invited residents who were concerned about crime to become aware of two sites that can provide up to date information on crime in the area. The website https://callsforservice.sdsheriff.gov/ list current incidents being handled by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. The Crime Analysis Unit (CAU) of the Department employs geographic information systems (GIS) technology to map crime and field incidents in support of crime prevention programs, problem-solving efforts, investigations and emergency operations. Incident data for the last six months is available at https://www.crimemapping.com/, both as a map view and as a chronological list.

A quick analysis conducted by this reporter reveals that there are 40 reported incidents in Borrego Springs during the 180-day period starting November 7, 2021, while if we look at a narrower window starting January 5, 2022, the number of reported incidents is 26, a rate of around 6.5 incidents per month. This, despite the spike on March 12, 2022, when there were seven incidents of vandalism at The Mall. Remarkably, Julian witnessed only four reported incidents of crime during the same period.

Follow-up questions were focused on whether drug use was implicated in the recent spike, and whether the Sheriff’s department can do anything about the known “drug houses” in the area. Sergeant Jenkins reminded attendees that law enforcement needs probable cause or reasonable suspicion to conduct a search. The two deputies assigned to Borrego Springs cannot be on duty round the clock, and illegal activity often occurs when law enforcement is off-duty. They believe that as soon as their cruiser is seen, the criminal “phone tree” activates and shuts down illegal drug activity.

Discussing the homeless person who is believed to have been responsible for the vandalism events in March, Sergeant Jenkins mentioned that the person also has mental health issues. Deputy Sheriff Cory Crawford pointed out that it is not illegal to be homeless, but action can be taken if a person is committing a crime. They reminded residents to be more aware, to not leave cars and homes unlocked. The community needs to be the eyes and ears for law enforcement, and if people observe illegal activity, they should report it.

Barbara Jiménez then spoke about the Sheriff’s Department’s homeless outreach https://www.sdsheriff.gov/community/homeless-outreach. Since June 2021, she has been with the newly formed Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities. Homeless Assistance Resource Team (HART) provides assistance with homeless related issues in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. The focus of the team is “resources first.” Mobile crisis response teams, that include non-enforcement Sheriff’s deputies, make contact with the homeless to identify their needs and connect them to community services. HART offers a range of resources such as food, housing, job programs, substance abuse counseling and mental health services.

The HART team can be reached at: Team.HART@sdsheriff.org and the Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities at HSEC-OHS.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.org.

Jim Wilson and Betsy Knaak presented the findings of the Steering Committee of the Community Initiative to Address Emergency Medical Response & Fire Suppression Needs for Borrego Springs. The Steering Committee was formed in January to urgently investigate the underfunding of the Borrego Springs Fire Protection District (BSFPD) and to explore a Citizen’s Initiative for a tax supplement to replenish the funding. Led by Bruce Kelley, the committee worked diligently, meeting weekly since March, to produce the following findings:

- Borrego Springs Fire Protection District’s (BSFPD) challenges with staffing, equipment replacement, facility improvement and budget are so significant that a six-fold increase in supplemental property tax would be needed to address staff compensation immediately, and equipment and facility upgrades over five and 10 years, respectively. Additional taxes or major donations would be needed to replace the fire house.

- San Diego County Fire Protection District (SDCFPD) has proposed staffing, equipment replacement, facility upgrades and replacement and a budget that is superior to what a six-fold tax increase would allow the BSFPD to support.

The Steering Committee contacted several communities that have previously transitioned their local Fire Protection District to CalFire, and made several site visits. They found that those communities were uniformly satisfied with the transition to Cal Fire.

On May 12, the Steering Committee will attend the BSFPD Board meeting and recommend that the Board of BSFPD “request from SDCFPD terms & conditions for transitioning fire services, and that it request decertification of the BSFPD if the Board believes the agreement it negotiates will be in the community’s greater interest.”

The Sponsor Group agreed to write a letter of support for this recommendation.

The next meeting of the Sponsor Group, scheduled for June 2, 2022, 5 p.m., will also be hybrid, i.e., attendees may either come to the Borrego Springs Library or participate via Zoom. For further information, and to be added to the Sponsor Group email list to receive agendas and agenda packets, contact the Chair at rebfalk7@gmail.com. Anticipated topics at the June meeting include:

- An update from La Casa Del Zorro on the fencing and landscaping of the Solar project at the intersection of Borrego Springs Road and Yaqui Pass Road.

- An update on the county’s contract to conduct an engineering study on whether 18-wheeler trucks can safely navigate Montezuma Grade.

- An update from David Church, the permit applicant for the Dollar General store.

- San Diego County Water Resources Manager Jim Bennett will discuss a county application to the US Bureau of Reclamation for a pilot farmland fallowing project grant, for which he needs community support.

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