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By Will Fritz
Associate Editor 

Sheriff's staff talks crime during Coffee with the Community event


Last updated 11/21/2019 at 3:28pm

San Diego County Sheriff's Lt. Rick Lopez, left, and Sheriff's Department Crime Prevention Specialist Jake Kruger listen to Fallbrook residents' safety concerns during a Coffee with the Community event at the Fallbrook sheriff's substation, Nov. 13.

Staff from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Fallbrook substation met with members of the community in the evening Nov. 13, to discuss various public safety issues on residents' minds.

Vehicle break-ins, 911 call response times and gang activity were all topics Fallbrook locals came to the substation to talk about with Lt. Rick Lopez, who oversees the substation, and Sheriff's Department Crime Prevention Specialist Jake Kruger.

Fallbrook resident Jan Scott told sheriff's staff that she had several videos posted to social media indicating that someone has been breaking into cars on Alvarado Street.

"They caught him about three times, they caught him snatching a purse out a car," she said.

She also pointed out that there have been multiple vehicle break-ins and burglaries on Alturas Road along the eastern edge of U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, which have been listed in the sheriff's log in Village News' weekly print edition.

Kruger said the sheriff's department was aware of those incidents.

"Some windows smashed, but mostly there are unlocked cars (that are the focus of the burgarlies)," Kruger said. "The starting point would be ... don't keep anything valuable in your car, locking the doors, reporting suspicious activity."

He said just reporting any activity that could be criminal would help.

"You don't have to have the whole crime figured out," he said. "Deputies might be right around the corner."

Kruger said some may feel comfortable intervening if they see a theft or burglary in progress, but others may not, so he said residents should respond however they think is best.

"You can always call 911," he said. "In terms of how much you want to get involved with a crime in progress, that's up to you. I would say be safe."

Jessica Richer, another Fallbrook resident, inquired whether there was any way to get deputies to her quickly in an emergency – she said she lives near downtown Fallbrook and had a situation in which it took 45 minutes to get a deputy to her home after calling 911. She also said she was put on hold during the call.

Kruger and Lopez both said they weren't sure why she would have had such a long delay and said she shouldn't have been put on hold. Dialing 911 is still the best way to get in touch with law enforcement in an emergency, they said.

"Be as clear as possible that you need a deputy now; it's an emergency," Kruger said. "They're gonna evaluate what you're saying and send somebody out."

Scott also brought up the topic of gangs in town, saying she had seen videos posted to YouTube in which individuals were openly advertising their membership in a Fallbrook gang.

Fred Heltman, left, and Richard Tanner share their safety concerns with San Diego County Sheriff's Department staff at the Fallbrook sheriff's substation.

Lopez said while Fallbrook does have a gang, activity related to that gang is much lower than it was about a decade ago.

"Before being a lieutenant, I was a gang detective for many years. I did investigations on gangs here when it was really bad," he said. "I'm happy to report – we have some gang crime here – but I did the stats last year, we had like five (incidents) and two of them were taggings, so we had three legitimate gang cases."

He said one area that is frequently targeted by taggers is Vine Street in downtown Fallbrook.

"We have tagging on Vine Street. We're always gonna have tagging on Vine Street; that's kind of their area," Lopez said. "And it's a secluded area, easy for them to get away. (It is the) easiest thing for them to prove their allegiance so that's the thing that they're always gonna do."

Lopez said the graffiti there is usually removed quickly by the Fallbrook Beautification Alliance, though.


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