Anza Crime Watch Group asks New Sheriff to come speak

At the AVMAC meeting this March, the area’s new Riverside County Sheriff Captain, Ray Wood, was introduced.

Captain Wood took command of the Hemet RCS Station Dec. 31, 2013, following Captain Collins three year command.

Captain Wood came to address the area’s ongoing crime problems, but he also came to learn from the audience how his department can better serve the area’s citizens.

He had been monitoring the Anza Crime Watch Facebook page and decided to get in touch with those in charge of the page in the form of a town meeting.

The group arranged for the meeting to be professionally recorded onto DVDs, and these DVDs are available while supplies last at Lorrain’s Pets Supply in Anza.

The set donation for the DVDs will go back to cover the videographers costs. The group also set up the sound for the meeting and a sound wired podium in the back for citizens to stand at while asking questions so they could be easily heard.

Captain Wood thanked the group and AVMAC for hosting the meeting, and introduced himself and his head of Patrols for County areas, Lt. Pat Chavez. Chavez took notes throughout the evening.

Captain Wood explained that he started his career with the RCS back in 1990. From the academy Wood was assigned to the Hemet Station, and his first patrols were in this area.

He reminisced about the cold nights spent up here on patrol, in Idyllwild and the Anza Valley. From his first assignment in the Hemet substation he moved around to different station locations.

He also moved up in rank from patrol on the hill to Banning, to narcotics, to a Detective in the sex crimes against children division in Temecula.

As a sergeant he spent three years in corrections; he also was involved in special weapons, tactics, and intelligence until the RCS developed a full time Swat team which he then became a part of for a few years.

A year and a half after being promoted to lieutenant, Wood was chosen to be a part of a brand new unit that addresses Tribal matters. He was Riverside County Sheriff Department’s first “Tribal Liaison.”

When he promoted to Captain his first assignment was at the Colorado River Station in Blyth. Now he has been chosen to command the Hemet Substation, where he first began his career.

“Coming back is like coming home to me,” Wood said.

Wood lives in Hemet and feels a close kinship to the mountain communities.

The first thing he noticed upon his return to the Hemet Station is how much the staffing assignments had changed.

“I felt that the deployment of staff was done insufficiently,” he said.

And so the captain implemented some immediate changes, which can be seen in the presence of more black and white units in the area. He has made sure that each shift has a unit assigned to the hill at any given time.

Wood said he wanted his department and the community to become a working unit rather than what they were, which was a disparate group of individuals.

He said the ability to function as a unit was an important thing for the Sheriff’s staff to undertake because they are service providers to the community and therefore have to live up to that standard by working closely together.

Wood also emphasized that he wanted to place officers on the hill who had expressed interest in being there as regulars.

The idea of having the same officers serving on the hill every day, Woods said, was to have faces that people in the community of Anza could get to know.

That night he addressed the many concerns of the area’s citizens. Each time a specific type of problem was brought up during the question and answer time, Captain Wood would have Lt. Chavez write it down for later reference.

Woods addressed a common concern among event attendees, and that was the lack of cooperation officers had toward area residents and business owners at crime scenes.

Several times throughout the evening, Anza residents expressed concern about officers who would go to the scenes of thefts and refuse to collect evidence that business owners and area residents believed might be important in catching the person responsible.

Woods encouraged the audience to speak up and tell RCS when officers are difficult or uncooperative regarding the collection of evidence.

In closing, the captain re-assured the community that he is willing to work with them. He said he would continue to monitor the Anza Crime Watch page and work with its leadership as one step of fulfilling that goal, as well as his goal of providing excellent service to the people that live in the area.

“I want to provide a level of service that will be the same as I expect it to be when I pick up the phone and call the Sheriffs,” he said.

Anza Crime Watch on Facebook was started by citizens in the area who said they were concerned about the increase in the number of thefts that were occurring in the area.

Diane Sieker, a local resident, started the project in the fall with the help of other people from the Anza area such as Linda Caldwell and Bud Elmore. Caldwell and Elmore help manage the Facebook page.

“I was tired of nothing happing,” Sieker said of the number of crimes in her area.

The page, which has grown to more than 500 members, can be found here:

To report an emergency call 911, call 951-776-1099 or 1-800-950-2444.

To call the Hemet Station call 951-791-3400.

To write to Captain Wood send correspondence to 43950 Acacia Avenue Suite B, Hemet, Calif. 92544.

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