Meeting Notes 3-11-06

Minutes of the PSNIC Subcommittee on Crime and Safety (PSNIC-CS)
Saturday, March 11, 10:00AM at the home of Bob Dickinson and Michael Marler, 755 West Crescent Drive. 

Gene Dippel (Tennis Club), Candis Richmond (Old Las Palmas), Bob Mahlowitz (Sunmor), John Williams (Old Las Palmas/Warm Sands), Jim Lundin (Deepwell), Nick Chicola (Deepwell), Bob Dickinson (Vista Las Palmas), Michael Marler (Vista Las Palmas) and Rita Popenhagen (a guest of Gene Dippel of Tennis Club).

A brief review of the Mission Statement and Goals was followed by a spirited conversation regarding crime, which is considered the number one issue by the PSNIC neighborhoods.  There seemed to be agreement that residents feel that crime is increasing, but without actual statistics made easily available, it is hard to know if it just a perception or reality.  Certainly there was no one attending who had not been the victim of crime or one of their neighbors has over the past year.  The overall consensus was there was not enough police presence in the neighborhoods.  It was not settled if this was only a perception or a fact caused by a police force that is stretched too thin, or not using it’s resources correctly.  The following is a rough discussion line of the meeting.

Bob Dickinson stated that Vista Las Palmas along with Candis Richmond of Old Las Palmas are aggressively trying to secure a private security service to start a subscription based 25/7 private security patrol through Maximum Security, a local alarm vendor.  Currently the neighborhood has approximately 25% of the 200 customers needed to start service.  The price, of $100.00 per month per subscriber, was considered high by some attending.  Bob Mahlowitz expressed frustration that citizens were being forced to hire a an outside contractor to compensate for lack of police presence in the neighborhoods.  Continued discussion touched on the “Neighborhood Watch” program, but noting that so many of our houses are occupied by part timers and are vacant, especially during the summer, this has not proven effective in Palm Springs.

John Williams stated that out of the current police force of near eighty, less than 50% are actually on patrol duty.  It was also noted by others that the City Of Palm Springs has the highest paid police force in Riverside County.  Some discussion of the concept of eliminating the PS police force and signing a contract with Riverside Sheriffs Department ensued, but the knowledge that the officers patrolling also lived in the city seemed attractive.  It was noted that the city defeated an initiative that would have increased taxes for police and fire and that the police department has been at the same size for over twenty years despite a dramatic population increase.      

Bob Mahlowitz felt that the best way to effect change in the PS police department was to focus the City Council on crime as the number one priority.  

Michael Marler mentioned that Vista Las Palmas is in the process of developing a website for VLPNO members.  One feature will include an informal database of suspicious activity and crime reports.  The hope is that a license plate noted by one neighbor might coincide with a crime at another neighbors home, thereby giving the police a lead to follow up on.   Candis indicated that she had discussed this idea with a retired police chief and he thought it was a really solid concept.

Jim Landin expressed his feeling that crime is not increasing and that his experience is that the police are rather responsive.  He also noted that during a break in to his house, the police did not respond with lights and sirens as to not scare away the intruder, which might give the impression that the police are not responsive.  Nick C. indicated that it is not crime increasing, but a lack of presence from the Police Department that is the problem.  The group seemed disturbed that the Chief of Police is nervous or cannot release statistics.  This started a detailed discussion about statistics and the lack there of.  All agreed that statistics are essential to elevating or relieving community concern about crime.  Bob Dickinson mentioned that the LAPD has initiated a very informative website on crime statistics, which was demonstrated. 

Gene Dippel expressed that there must be some way to let the City Council know that the present system is perceived as broken.  Candis stated that perhaps it is time to hold the City’s “feet to the fire”.  Bob  M. suggested that perhaps the The City Study Session on Public Safety at 6:00PM on March 22 at City Hall is the best venue for this.  It was discussed and agreed that each neighborhood should have a representative there to clarify the issues of concern and speak for the allotted three minutes.  Then a PSNIC Crime and Safety spokesperson would do a summation and request that the City Council make crime very high on the city agenda.  It was agreed that either Bob Dickinson or John Williams, depending on availability, should be the PSNIC-CS spokesperson.  What PSNIC-CS will request from the City:

  • When and how will citizens be able to retrieve actual crime statistics and not those entered by interns?
  • How does Palm Springs compare to other Desert cities regarding force size and cost per officer?
  • Is is possible to get more officers on patrol throughout the neighborhoods?
  • Should the city be allocating more funding to policing?
  • Should neighborhoods continue to try a patchwork of solutions, or can the City offer a more broad based approach?
  • Is it time to form a Citizens’ Task Force to examine the issue of crime?

The meeting finished at 11:00AM