How many DUI arrests occur here every year and how other private communities handle vehicle stops for suspected DUI were part of the policy discussion that took place at the Community Services District Security Committee meeting this week. Updates on incidents in the community included a Labor Day accident on a bike trail that resulted in a 16-year-old being taken to the hospital by helicopter.
DUI vehicle stop policy
One of the questions that has come up in the discussion about the policy the CSD has proposed to allow Security officers to make voluntary DUI vehicle stops is how many DUI incidents occur in the community, Security Chief Greg Remson told the committee on Tuesday. "Within the gates, and that's what we're looking at, we average about three a year," he said.
But this has been an above-average year. "You've got two just in August," Director Steve Mobley said. "Then you've got the kid who flipped his car over on the parkway, that's three, and then you have the kid who hit the tree, that's four right there."
"We're five inside the gates, this year alone," Remson said.
Although the present policy doesn't allow Security officers to make vehicle stops, "We still make contact with drunk drivers. We just do it in a different way," Remson said.
His written report to the committee notes two DUI arrests in August: "August 9, Thursday, 3:30 p.m. North Gate. DUI arrest. A permanent guest of a resident was checking in at the gate. The Security Patrol Officer working the gate observed signs of intoxication. CHP responded and arrested the driver for DUI. ... August 13, Monday, 8:43 p.m. South Gate. DUI arrest. Report of a subject driving on a rim who ran the red light on Jackson Road at Murieta Drive, almost running into the witness. A Security Patrol Officer observed the vehicle drive onto Murieta South Parkway and stop at the South Gate. The female resident showed signs of intoxication and was verbally abusive and uncooperative with the Patrol Officer. CHP responded and arrested the driver for DUI."
"None of those arrests have been done by us making a vehicle stop. Ever," Remson said. "They've all been as a result of a crash, as a result of a report of somebody that has come off of the highway. ... We've had at least two ... arrests that have been on the golf course. ... If you're drunk driving, you're drunk driving, and you're subject to arrest."
The proposed policy would allow a Security patrol officer to attempt a voluntary stop if the officer believes a driver is "under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the Security Patrol Officer reasonably believes that the operation of the motor vehicle presents an imminent threat to public safety or property."
"This was just going to be for singular incidences of reckless driver, DUI, and that was it," Mobley said of the proposed policy.
Remson said he had contacted other private communities with homeowner associations. Of the four I've contacted so far that have talked to me, three out of the four do vehicle stops, primarily for speeding, stop signs and DUI," he said.
When Mobley asked if they have instances of people fleeing from them, Remson replied "Very little ... But they don't chase people down. ... The DUIs, if it's a non-accident, if they can get the person home, they'll get him home. ... If they can comfortably release that person to a spouse or a sober neighbor type of thing, they'll do that."
Chris Pasek, a Country Club board member attending the meeting, pointed out that the proposed CSD policy requires notification of the California Highway Patrol.
"It's not what we propose. It's what we do," Remson said. "...The best-case scenario is to notify CHP as soon as possible."
Carl Gaither, a resident who attended the meeting, said, "If you were to put it out to the public that we're going to light you up with an amber light because we suspect DUI ... and say, we're going to do this not to arrest you, not to report you, but to help you get home safely. Could that be another way of approaching it if you want to do this?"
"No," Remson replied. "...Our policy and procedure is if you're drunk driving, you're going to go to jail."
Director Betty Ferraro said the concern is the CSD would be responsible if the person got back out on the road.
"If they're intoxicated and driving, they're operating a vehicle and they're on the roadway, in our gates, how many times are you going to let this person endanger our lives?" Mobley said. "I don't want to give a drunk guy a ride home five or six times and wait until he hits somebody. It doesn't make any sense to me. I'd rather straighten the problem out right now."
Remson says the HOAs that do vehicle stops "have a specific rule that says when the security officer turns on the amber light that is a warning that you're violating an HOA rule and you're to pull off to the side of the road and wait for contact. If you choose not to do that, it's an automatic fine. Automatic. ... It's a first-time fine."
Mobley said the cooperation of the Rancho Murieta Association is needed to "make it a stiff fine if you don't stop."
Gaither asked if the RMA was backing away from what was being proposed. "I don't know if they were ever on board," Remson responded. Referring to the August RMA meeting where the policy was discussed, he said, "My feeling, what I got out of that, was they like things the way that they are."
Gaither expressed the same skepticism some of the RMA directors had voiced. "If you know you're intoxicated, you're going to continue on because you know that the outcome of this could go against your driver's license. ... I'm concerned this may start problems that we really don't want to have," he said.
What happens if you turn on the amber light and the person takes off? he asked Remson.
"Then we turn the lights off. ... We are not going to pursue people," Remson replied.
The policy was proposed after an incident in which a Security officer observed erratic driving but was unable to attempt to stop the vehicle. After crashing into a resident's tree, the driver was arrested for DUI.
If an off-duty sheriff's deputy had been working that night, the deputy would have been in either a Security patrol car equipped with magnetic sign that identified it as sheriff's vehicle, a solid red light and a siren, as required by law, or a standard sheriff's patrol car. "And yes, they can make vehicle stops for DUI," Remson said. "Off-duty deputies have made a couple of DUI arrests within the gates."
The discussion about the proposed DUI vehicle stop policy will be continued next month. CSD Security Committee meetings are open to the public.
Boy helicoptered to hospital after biking accident
Security Chief Greg Remson reported a father and son were bicycling in the back lake area Monday evening when the son fell and was injured. "He was taken by helicopter to the hospital," Remson said.
The 16-year-old resident was wearing a helmet, which prevented more serious injury, and he is expected to make a full recovery, Remson reported.
The father and son were riding on a marked trail that is part of the trail system established by a group of residents. There was a previous accident in the same area, and the person injured in that incident was also wearing a helmet, according to Remson.
Resident Carl Gaither said the incident brought a question to mind, since "I'm a bike rider and I have been using these trails. My question is, 90 percent of the trails back there are on private property. ... If I'm riding a trail back there and I'm severely injured because I think that trail was not clearly marked as to the severity of it, who's responsible?"
Director Betty Ferraro replied, "All I know is that the people who were developing the trails and knowing they were going on private property and did not have an agreement from the property owner, that they knew the liability that they were looking at. I don't know if anybody knows who those people are or that organization. It appears to now be an organization of people that do biking and hiking and that sort of thing."
The network of trails was developed by a group of community volunteers on private properties without official oversight or owner permission. The trails were an open secret in the community for more than a decade. This year, a group called the Murieta Trail Stewardship submitted a 33-page document outlining the trails effort to the Rancho Murieta Association, the CSD and the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers, the largest owner of undeveloped land in Murieta North, asking for their cooperation.The group says there are 12 miles of trails, with another three to six miles planned.
About noon Aug. 31, a non-Country Club member was walking his dog on the second hole of the golf course and he was confronted by a member. "Words were exchanged. The non-member felt that the member assaulted him," Security Chief Greg Remson said. "The sheriff's department was called, the sheriff's department responded and issued a citation, and it was basically a citizen's arrest cite-and-release for assault against the member."
Director Betty Ferraro asked how Security responded to the issue of a non-member trespassing on golf course property. Remson replied that both Security and the sheriff's department informed the non-member "that he's trespassing on private property."
Remson said Security makes "spot checks" for trespassing on the courses, usually in the evening.
Country Club staff has also stepped up efforts to address trespassing on the courses.
- About 11:30 p.m. Aug. 31, a man fell from a golf cart at the Country Club. "He was transported to the hospital and our officers transported the cart owner home," said Remson.
- Concerning the attempted ATM theft at the Country Store before dawn Sunday, Remson said Security officers "did a good job hearing it and then following at a safe distance the suspect vehicle that ended up crashing through the gate just past Murieta South into Van Vleck's field, and ended up bouncing around back there and ditching the truck." When the truck was found by a Van Vleck employee the next morning, Remson said, "It was still running. The truck was stolen out of Stockton."