Tagging, transients and an increasing homeless population were the major issues of concern during a special Temecula city meeting that addressed crime and took place shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 in a room of the City Hall building.
There, a loose scattering of individuals who were mostly business owners expressed their concern with various crimes, many of which appeared to be associated with groups of people who circulate the area that runs from the main drag of Old Town to the malls adjacent to the Quaid Harley Davidson dealership on Front Street.
Two specific crime concerns addressed during the meeting were vandalism and trespassing. Many business owners cited encounters with individuals they were not familiar with and others mentioned coming across instances of tagging and graffiti around town.
Officer Lynn Salazar encouraged all business owners to call police officers whenever they happen to see something suspicious as a measure to prevent crime, something she said she hasn’t seen enough people doing.
“We’d love to be at every corner but the fact is we’re not,” said Salazar. “But, we want to make sure you guys are our eyes and ears. When you see some graffiti, it could have been there for a week or two weeks, but the moment you see it we want you to give us a call.”
“Something you see, or saw, or witnessed could maybe have a great effect on something that happened on the north end where you may think, ‘Oh, you know, there’s no relevance there’ and there is,” she said.
Salazar and her fellow officer Teri Harney led a presentation where they discussed different ways businesses could equip themselves to prevent crimes like vandalism and trespassing and the list included simple steps like replacing light bulbs that are out on the outsides of buildings and making sure that shrubbery is cut below all windows so that individuals inside buildings can look out without their view being obstructed.
Many of the problems and petty crimes mentioned at the meeting were often connected with the city’s population of transients that tend to occupy the dirt field across from the South Creek Mall as well as a number of settled homeless who often take shelter in the creek bed adjacent to the buildings lining Old Town Front Street.
Many of the individuals present at the meeting complained that both groups of individuals are becoming too large and expressed concern over the number of area residents that provide those individuals with food and money.
Mayor Maryann Edwards, who also attended the meeting, said that people may think they’re doing a good deed by giving homeless individuals money for food and similar items but that such giving can be more of a hindrance than a help to those individuals because they, in turn, might use the money for a purpose other than its intended one.
Edwards said that this year as mayor she’s poised to take on the task of homelessness in Temecula in a way where people get long-term help rather than just a simple hand out.
“I think we’ve learned that just giving them food and a blanket and enabling them to go back and live in the creek and do the same things over and over is not helping them,” she said. “It’s enabling them and I think it’s making things worse.”
Edwards added that she wants to enact a plan for the local food pantry to offer wrap-around services rather than just a “hand out” that would help the homeless individuals in the community to better their situations.
However, Edwards said the city will be cracking down on homeless in the city that are not interested in such a solution and are more interested in continuing their current behaviors.
“Some people choose that lifestyle and that’s fine if that’s the lifestyle they want to live,” she said. “But we can’t allow them to trespass, vandalize and commit crimes.”
While Edwards said her focus as mayor was to look toward long-term solutions to the problems presented by the city’s homeless population, business owners seemed more concerned with what they could do now to mitigate their current problems with vandalism and trespassing.
Local store owner Corinna Coram came to the meeting as a representative for the Old Town Temecula Association, a group of merchants who relay information to each other about crime trends and things that have been happening.
The association allows businesses to look out for one another for the purpose of preventing crime, according to Coram. She said that when a business is given a fake $100 bill, for example, the association sends out a blast e-mail to other businesses with information regarding the crime so that they might prevent the same thing from happening to themselves.
“We would like to extend that communication to you,” she said to the other business owners present.
For more information regarding the Old Town Temecula Association, visit their website at
www.oldtowntemecula.org. To report a vandalism or trespassing-related crime, contact Officer Teri Harney at (951) 696-4357.