T■ Mary Ann Morris / Editor
hings in Hemet get more bizarre every day and I can’t seem to get a handle on why our city officials continue to allow what once was a beautiful place to live to degenerate into Skid Row City. The voters passed a tax – Measure U – and were promised the new money would change everything. So far that’s an empty promise, no matter what our elected and appointed officials tell us.
We’ve managed to hire a handful of new officers – mostly to replace those who have left or been promoted – and we’ve bought a whole bunch of new police cars, which seem to get wrecked even before they’ve been driven off the lot. Our Police Chief, Dave Brown, has decided to retire before fixing our problems – a big disappointment to me personally because he campaigned hard for the tax and made assurances he would stick it out. But he has aspirations for the Sheriff’s Department now and can’t be bothered to fix Hemet anymore. Yet crime has not abated.
People are literally dying on our streets – three examples immediately come to mind – Monkey Mike in the bank parking lot across from Weston Park, an unidentified woman who died near a trash dumpster near the corner of Yale Street and Florida Avenue, and an unidentified man who died near Jersey Mike’s sandwich shop. Outspoken citizens and business owners are being thrown out of public meetings for no apparent reason except personal dislike, and a center median is being thrust down our throats when nobody in this city wants it or feels it would increase the safety of our streets.
We seem to be creating some of our own problems while ignoring others. The center median project has been on the radar about since 2013. But just now, at the eleventh hour, the city decides it’s “not for Hemet.” There seems to be a lot of uproar over something that the city and its “sphere of influence” should have put the kibosh on a long time ago.
All talk – no action
We have a lot of problems in Hemet that need solving, and the city has created myriad task forces and committees for them, such as the Homeless Task Force, the Park Commission, ROCS and let’s not forget the Skate Park Task Force. Most of these commissions and task forces don’t do much but meet, if they ever do hold a meeting. But what is really more important right now? The ridiculous median and its landscaping conundrum or the mental health crisis, the homeless crisis, the gang crisis or the human trafficking crisis we seem to have in this city?
All four of these are seemingly coming to a head here in Hemet. The streets and sidewalks are literally filled with drug-addled people and daily I drive down Florida Avenue and think I am on set for a rehearsal of “The Walking Dead” rather than driving down a major street in our city. I see gang graffiti cropping up more and more every day, even sprayed on the windows of the empty Organic Strawberry Bicycle Shop right next door to The Valley Chronicle.
Rampant drug use becoming acceptable
A woman was arrested in Gibbel Park on Sunday. Why? Well, she was walking around the park picking up what looked like bits of paper – completely naked – I saw the video. She admitted to HPD officers that she was on LSD. She was arrested, according to community news reporter Gary Rainwater. But honestly, a naked woman in the park is no longer news. And it definitely doesn’t warrant a press release by our police department. Why not? I think the public should know about these things. A community plagued by crime like ours should be releasing news reports daily about the arrests made by our police force.
If it’s not drug-addled people roaming in and out of traffic and jumping in front of cars hoping for a payout, it’s homeless people who angrily confront members of the public, making ordinary citizens afraid to walk the streets for which they pay taxes. People are posting photos of used hypodermic needles they find in our parks and on our streets. It’s mind-boggling that this is becoming acceptable.
Human trafficking mecca
And if it’s not homeless people who are mentally ill, who don’t seem to be getting the help they need, we have the added burden of being an apparent mecca for human trafficking. Hemet resident Lawrence Lamont Randall was arrested in May and is facing trial for pimping, sex trafficking, unlawful detention and a handful of other felonies. He’s not the first Hemet resident, either. Eliberto Cruz Jacobo, 46, of Hemet, was convicted in March 2017 of 60 – yes 60 – felony counts related to solicitation of prostitution and human trafficking.
But that’s not to say HPD isn’t doing anything about this epidemic. Just a few weeks ago, HPD enacted a code enforcement operation on several massage parlors in Hemet, hoping to weed out any illegal activities from these establishments with a gentle nudge from Code Enforcement. The Valley Chronicle has been reporting on human sex trafficking for almost two years, most notably on the Ai Spa, which was closed after a man died there in February 2016 and never reopened.
When will the public say “enough?” I say it now – we’ve had enough! It’s time for city officials to stop paying lip service to the troubles of Hemet and enact solutions. Perhaps it’s time for a Zero Tolerance Policy on crime. Who cares if they bail out 30 minutes later? Arrest them again! Eventually they will go elsewhere, stay in jail, or change their behavior. We need to take back our city from degenerate elements, and we need to do it now!