Council and law enforcement launch “aggressive” anti-criminal campaign
■ By Kyle Selby / Reporter
“A declaration of war is important, because we are already under attack,” announced Hemet Mayor Linda Krupa Friday morning. “Today is the day we draw the line in the sand. As a community, we are here to say ‘enough is enough!’”
The city, joined by the Hemet Police Department, declared a “War on Crime” early Friday morning, April 7, in Weston Park during a public press conference, with a turnout of hundreds of residents and local media.
“Over the next few months, we will ask City Council to approve the hiring of 21 new police officers and support staff,” proclaimed Police Chief Dave Brown. According to Brown, 4,000 violent crimes have been committed in Hemet since 2008, a time when the police force was reduced by more than 30 percent due to the recession.
He also explained that a “perfect storm” brewed out of the impacts of Prop 47, 57 and an undersized and severely impacted county jail system.
“We will spend millions of dollars on new equipment and technology to better equip our officers, and yes, we will ask our City Council to improve the compensation of our police officers, so that we can compete with our regional partners to attract the best and the brightest and to retain our outstanding, dedicated police professionals.”
Those millions of dollars will come from Measure U, a 1 percent tax increase that began this month, approved by Hemet voters in November, which is expected to generate up to $10 million a year over the next 10 years, toward the Police and the Fire departments. Chief Brown’s “major hiring campaign” is expected to recruit 21 police officers and support staff.
Familiar faces were present in the crowd, including Joe Males and Corinna Moreno-Ramirez, parents of Nick Males and Daniel Ramirez, both killed last year during random acts of violence.
Last week was known as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a national celebration honoring victims lost to violence. Thursday night, both Males and Moreno-Ramirez attended the unveiling of new names added to the Victims Memorial Wall outside the Riverside District Attorney’s office, which now showcases both Nicholas Males’ and Daniel Ramirez’ names.
“We’re making a difference,” said Moreno-Ramirez proudly. “If we hadn’t kept coming to the council meetings and speaking out, this never would have happened.” Moreno-Ramirez’ son was killed last November in a drive-by shooting, and ever since, she has been actively challenging the city for their lack of progress in stalled homicide investigations of both her son, and other victims of families who have joined her to support her cause.
Who is our enemy, and what will victory look like? Let’s be clear about one thing: crime and violence are the enemy in this campaign.”
Last week, the City Council approved Police Chief Dave Brown’s $10,000 reward proposal for “Crime Tips in certain criminal case investigations,” a direct result of Moreno-Ramirez and company’s frequent appearances before the council. She now hopes that more progress will be made.
City Council members Bonnie Wright, Karlee Meyer and Russ Brown stood alongside police chiefs from Banning, Beaumont, and Murrieta, who came out to show support. Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, and Riverside County Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington were also in attendance to show their encouragement for Hemet’s “War on Crime” during Victim’s Rights Week.
“This year we have to chisel 116 names of people who were cut down and taken away from us early because of murders – because of violence,” said Hestrin, who promised his “undying support” for the campaign Friday morning. “We’re dedicated to hearing the voices of victims, and hearing the voices of communities that have been ravaged by crime like this. This is the beginning. This is not the end; this is the beginning of a long fight.”
Washington has served the County of Riverside for years, making a commitment to focus his attention and to utilize his resources to help revitalize the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley. As an ex-pilot for Delta Airlines during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Washington understands the imposing threat of terrorism and criminal activity.
“Two years ago, I came to this office and I didn’t know Hemet very well,” admitted Washington. “But I’ve come to know Hemet, and to love Hemet. This is an important day. It’s largely the optics of this that we want you to see. I want you to see the show of force. These [officers] out in front – when you call because you need someone to help you, or because there’s a criminal in your neighborhood, who’s going to respond? They’re going to respond. I am going to give you everything I’ve got, to partner with all these folks you see standing in front of you today. We are not going to tolerate crime in our community, in our neighborhoods – crime that scares families, kids, businesses. It’s done. It’s over. We are going to take back Hemet.”
“There are two final questions left to answer before we adjourn this morning,” concluded Chief Brown. “Who is our enemy, and what will victory look like? Let’s be clear about one thing: crime and violence are the enemy in this campaign. This campaign is not against any particular group of people; it is a campaign against criminal behavior. So anyone, ANYONE who elects to become involved in criminal activity in our city will become a target to this massive and aggressive effort. We are unified and are prepared to take bold action and we are ready to spend enormous resources to ensure the safety and security of law-abiding citizens in this valley.”