About 40 people turned out Tuesday evening for a presentation on the Neighborhood Watch program conducted by the Sacramento Sheriff's Department and hosted by the Rotary Club.
“If you see something suspicious, if you see something weird out there, something that doesn’t feel right, you need to call the Sheriff’s Department, you need to call Security,” said Problem Oriented Policing Officer Mark Kuzmich. He’s with the Sacramento Sheriff's Department, and he was addressing Tuesday’s meeting on the Neighborhood Watch program at the Rancho Murieta Association Building.
According to Kuzmich, that’s not happening now. He reminded the audience of a string of car burglaries that occurred overnight a few months ago. “You know how many phone calls the Sheriff’s Department got that night? Zero. Nobody called,” he said.
But at the James L. Noller Safety Center the following day, Volunteers In Partnership with the Sheriff took reports on the break-ins and residents called to say they had seen three or four guys wearing black running through the neighborhood during the night, he said.
Kuzmich said the Neighborhood Watch presentations are usually done by the Sheriff’s Department crime prevention specialist, and he stepped in after learning phone calls made to a new person in the job hadn’t been returned.
Kuzmich announced at the meeting that a redistricting plan will move Rancho Murieta to a different sector of the Sheriff’s Department later this month. He said he expects the change to increase the presence of deputies here. Kuzmich will no longer be the community’s POP officer as a result of the change.
At the start of the one-hour meeting, Dick Cox addressed the audience of about 40 in his capacity as RMA president, saying the association intends to have follow-up meetings to establish the Neighborhood Watch program in the community. “We’ve got a little bit of paradise here … Unfortunately, this year, we’ve had a lot of vandalism. … We thought that something like Neighbor Watch could give us a leg up on it. We’re never going to completely stop it but with participation by the people who live here we can certainly cut it down.”
Kuzmich said Neighborhood Watch is about getting to know your neighbors and communicating with them.
Resident and VIPS volunteer Jacque Villa told the group, “It’s real simple. Neighborhood Watch is just being aware of who lives in your neighborhood … and what’s strange.” She encouraged residents to call Security when they observed something unfamiliar.
Cathy King attended the meeting with neighbors from the close-knit townhouse community around Laguna Joaquin.
“I think that we have Neighborhood Watch on our street, and we are one of the hardest hit streets in Rancho Murieta,” she said. “So do we go out in the middle of the night, and if we do, what are our rights then?”
“I would completely advise against going out in the street and confronting anybody,” Kuzmich replied. “The best thing for you to do is keep an eye on them, get the phone, call Security up, call us up so we can get out there.”
“The best thing for people to do if they see anything or hear anything is to call us,” said Security Chief Greg Remson. “That way we can check it out. … It lets kids know we’re trying to keep an eye on them.”
“If things are suspicious, you call Security. If it’s a major crime happening, if someone’s getting hurt, call 911. …But after you get off with 911, call Security up. I think it’s very important to make two phone calls,” Kuzmich said.
“The problem out here is if we do call the Sheriff’s Department, you don’t get a response for 45 minutes,” said Dick Cox, who sat in the audience during the meeting. “By the time they do get here, in the few instances I know of, it’s over. And our Security people, all they can do is observe and report. They can’t apprehend, they can’t arrest, they can’t detain, they can’t even ask the name of the individual.”
At the present time, there are three or four officers covering the area from Watt Avenue to the Amador County line, and from the river to Jackson, Kuzmich said.
The redistricting plan will add six officers, and “you guys are going to be happier with your service from the Sheriff’s Department,” he predicted.
Remson said Rancho Murieta will be the most populous area when redistricting occurs, instead of competing with Rancho Cordova. “One of the goals of the reorganization is to lessen the response time of the Sheriff’s Department for people countywide,” he said.
Kuzmich provided follow-up on two crimes in the community, saying “two kids” were identified in the vandalism of construction equipment at Bass Lake in July. The owners of the damaged equipment didn’t press charges. “They just wanted restitution,” he said.
Remson said, “We would have preferred some message to these two young gentlemen that crime doesn’t pay and their parents can’t take care of the issue.”
Kuzmich noted that the district attorney declined to charge six males in their late teens and early 20s who were arrested on marijuana charges in March after Security responded to a call from a resident.
“We do our job. We do the best we can,” Kuzmich said. “If the D.A. doesn’t file on it or the victim doesn’t want to press charges, we’re hands off.”
“We talk about the slashing tires and the vandalism.You know what? We’ve got to get lucky,” Kuzmich said. “We have to be lucky or we have to get that good description. … The Security out here knows everybody and the communication we get from them – for example, the kids doing the thing to the heavy equipment. … we wouldn’t be able to solve half the crimes (without input from Security).”
“Just because we know who they are doesn’t mean we can prove it … to the point of prosecution, doesn’t mean we can prove it to the point where we can have Mark or his people come knock on the door,” Remson said. “We have to be careful with accusing people and that kind of thing. Do the parents of some of these kids know their kids are doing it? Absolutely they do.”
Law enforcement officers have the power to detain individuals for probable cause, unlike Security patrol officers. However, “we still follow (the law) so you’ve got to be careful of what you think we can do and what we can actually do,” Kuzmich told the group. “If we have good ID, and the person’s been identified, we can stop and detain that person and do an investigation. We have probable cause to stop and detain that person so they can’t just take off from us. …”
When asked about possible repercussions for physically detaining someone for an act of vandalism on their property, Kuzmich cautioned, “You’re going to be held civilly liable if something happens to them …. The best thing to do is call us, let us handle it. Call Security.”
More than half a dozen members of the audience asked questions, made critical comments or expressed their concerns.
Wendy Feldman’s was a unique perspective. “I think for such a low-crime area we have tremendous law enforcement presence around…. I think we’ve got a perfectly fabulous level of protection,” she said.
Cox took a different view. “If you want security to change around here you need to vote somebody in at CSD that’s going to do something about it," he said. "We don’t have security out here because CSD, who is responsible for the security, is sitting on their hands. That’s my opinion. … They need to make some decisions, they need to raise our rates so that we can pay for security out here, and they don’t have what it takes right now to raise those rates. We went 10 years without an increase in rates over there and our security is now at the point where we might as well not have any.”
Sheriff’s, Security and Safety Center phone numbers
- To report a crime in progress, call 911
- For non-emergencies, contact the Sheriff’s Department at 874-5115
- For assistance or to report suspicious activity, call South Gate Security dispatch at 354-CARE or 354-3743
- To make a report on a crime for the Sheriff’s Department, call the James L. Noller Safety Center at 354-8509 or 354-8511