Posts Tagged ‘Hemet Police’

Abandoned Graffitied Van Was Stolen

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The abandoned van in Valle Vista turned out to be stolen

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Not often when you report an abandoned vehicle to the police, do you get to hear the end of the story.

In this case, the white Ford van was stolen. It now sits parked outside Idyllwild Garage, waiting on the insurance company to make its report before returning it to its owners.

However, in my attempt to be a good citizen, I may have implicated myself in the crime. You see, my fingerprints are all over the driver’s side handle.

It all started a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed the white van parked in the pullout near Valle Vista. It’s a popular pullout because it’s close to the bridge and the creek, and oftentimes people go there in the summer to cool off.

Days later, I was going down the hill again and noticed the same van parked there. This time, I was concerned. Mostly because it was after the weekend, and it hadn’t moved.

Was the guy on an extended fishing trip, or did something happen to him?

In my short stint as a newspaper reporter (Idyllwild crime was my beat), I learned to notice inconsistencies. I once called a sheriff’s deputy about an abandoned truck in Valle Vista. (My editor thought it may have been associated with illegal dumping at the time). As it turned out, the truck’s owner was an out-of-work musician who hung himself in a nearby tree. He had even left a note in the truck.

The police blotter only mentioned the abandoned vehicle.

So knowing that, I got the license plate number and the number of the nearby mile marker, and reported the abandoned van to the police. They took down my information, and said they’d send an officer out to investigate.

I laughed with the dispatch operator about the driver being on a long fishing trip. I didn’t mention any hunches about dead bodies.

Three days later, I passed the same van again, but this time it had graffiti tagged all over it. On one side, they used profanity. It was no longer a nuisance vehicle, but an eyesore. I called the police again.

But this time, they directed me to Code Enforcement. I guess any abandoned vehicle that had been damaged, was now their problem. I gave the same story, and the officer said he’d open a file and get right on it.

Same van turned up at Idyllwild Garage

On May 21, I got tired of waiting on the police to tow the vehicle, and stopped to take pictures. It had “Infamous” written on the hood and rear.

Thinking about the abandoned vehicle/suicide in Valle Vista, I tried the door handle. After all, there could be a dead body inside.

It opened.

Inside, the van smelled of cigarette smoke, and the ashtray was overflowing with butts. There were clothes all over the back from a laundry basket.  The graffiti taggers must’ve rummaged through them looking for money or valuables. However, they overlooked a Gucci makeup bag.

I was glad that there was no corpses, or anyone hurt inside.

I tried to take a picture of the inside, for what reason I don’t know, but my flash didn’t go off. My camera said that I needed to replace the batteries.

“Just as well,” I thought to myself. “There’s no body, or anyone who needs my help, so now I’m trespassing.”

That was the end of the story, until today when I saw the van parked outside Idyllwild Garage.

My fingerprints were left on the door handle

I spoke to one of the mechanics, telling my good citizen story.

“Funny that it would end up here in Idyllwild,” I said.

“It was stolen,” he said. “The insurance company is on its way over to investigate.”

The owners were not from Idyllwild, he added.

Then I started to sweat. My fingerprints were left on the door handle. Should I turn myself in, and confess nosiness? Are my fingerprints impeding the sheriff’s investigation?

I decided to lay low and wait until the police come to me. Surely, they have records of me reporting the abandoned vehicle twice in one week. When you report anything to the police, you always have to give your name and phone number.

But I’m worried that I’ll get busted for stealing the van.  I’ve seen too many Film Noir movies to know that anyone’s luck can change on a dime. A good deed can land you in the clinker, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

No Recourse for Hemet/Valle Vista Marijuana Dispensary

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Next time you're at the Shell Station in Valle Vista, check out the activity across the street at the medical marijuana dispensary

The legitimate medical marijuana dispensary, located at 44518 Florida Avenue (across from the Shell Station at Lincoln Avenue) in Hemet/Valle Vista, has a tremendous amount of activity at all hours of the day and night.

Cars drive up and park and within 30 seconds, they take off again. It happens at 6 a.m. as well as 8 p.m. Is all this activity legal? Are all of them sick with legitimate green cards so they can buy marijuana? We hardly think so, but an officer from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said tonight (Nov. 28) there’s little that can be done about it.

The dispensary's address is 44518 Florida Avenue in Valle Vista

“The police are aware of the medical marijuana dispensaries in the area, and they monitor them all of the time,” said the officer answering the non-emergency line. “But they can’t see everyone’s green cards, so there’s little that can be done about it.”

We voiced our concerns about the dispensary’s close proximity to teens and children in that neighborhood. The Shell Station also has lots of local traffic. What if students were able to walk in to the Valle Vista Medical Marijuana dispensary and purchase bags and get back on the bus? (Conveniently, a RTA bus stop is located just outside the premises!)

There's lots of activity there, day and night

“The police cannot do anything about potential situations,” explained the officer. “They cannot bust a business on ‘what ifs.”

She suggested that perhaps everyone we’ve seen frequenting the place had legitimate green cards (which are cards prescribed by their doctors).

“They’re really easy to get,” she said. “It could be that everyone you’ve seen come and go over there legitimately has them.”

So there’s nothing that can be done about a medical marijuana dispensary gone bad? During any given day, when you fill up at the Shell Station, look across the street to see how many cars pull up and leave from there. If our 5-minute projection is correct, they may have more than 500 customers a day!

What if that dispensary wasn’t reporting that much business on its books? Is that enough reason for the police to raid them?

An RTA bus stop is conveniently located just outside the premises

“The only way an officer could investigate that medical marijuana dispensary is if someone said they were able to buy marijuana there without a green card,” the officer said. “We would need actual information.”

But who would admit to that? The person buying marijuana without a green card would be arrested on the spot! They’d be in just as much trouble as the dispensary! (Unless they brokered a plea bargain, but that only happens on TV crime dramas!)

Our tip came from a teenager who lives in Idyllwild. He casually pointed to the dispensary as we drove by in the car.

“You can buy marijuana there,” he said.

We wish he would have added, “Without a green card.”

If this marijuana dispensary is legitimate and popular as all get-out, then why not put a sign out front? There’s a large blank white sign in the parking lot left over from when it was called a tire shop six months ago. Why not put the business name in bold letters: Valle Vista Medical Marijuana Dispensary? Underneath they could brag about their popularity like McDonald’s does: “Over 1 billion customers served.” That way, everything would be above board. Parents in the neighborhood and church goers would all know, as well as the junkies, and then let the chips fall where they may.

The officer suggested that anyone concerned about illegal drug activity at the Valle Vista Medical Marijuana Dispensary contact the Riverside County Drug Activity Tip Line at (951) 955-6384. All tips can be anonymous, but if you leave your name and phone number, then an officer will contact you for followup information.

We left the tip line information about the Valle Vista dispensary, along with the editor’s name and phone number on their answering machine. We’ll see if we get a return call.

In the meantime, there’s a dispensary at the bottom of the Hill (about 15 miles from Idyllwild) where almost anyone can buy marijuana. Unless there’s proof of illegal activity, it will continue to service the area well.

To contact the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s 24-hour non-emergency line, (800) 950-2444.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Valle Vista Marijuana Dispensory?

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

 

The address to this popular building in Valle Vista is clearly marked on the front.

 

 

 

 

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The brown building with white trim looked just like any other doctor’s or dentist’s office in Hemet/Valle Vista. Only that this one, across from the Shell Station on the corner of Florida and Lincoln Avenues, had a lot of activity.

In fact, in the five minutes it took to fill up my car, four cars had come and gone. And one heavy set guy, who gassed up at the Shell Station, had walked over there and returned within those few minutes.

What was going on here? Was this a crack house?

I’ve lived down the street from drug houses in Chicago and Idyllwild. The drug dealers in Chicago had it down to an art. Cars would stop in the street and honk, and they would run out in their neon green shirts to serve them. At any drug house, there’s always a lot of activity and no one sticks around for long for fear of getting caught. I also used to cover crime for the Idyllwild Town Crier, and had once interviewed a potential drug dealer in Garner Valley. So I’m naturally suspicious.

Several months back, this brown building used to be a tire shop. But it wasn’t open for long. Now, there is only a blank white sign, but the address, 44518, is clearly marked on the front of the building in 12-inch letters. A crack house wouldn’t be so obvious.

There's a lot of suspicious activity at this location

“That’s where you can buy marijuana,” said a teenage boy from Idyllwild who was riding in my car as we passed the place one afternoon.

I didn’t think much about it then, but wondered how he could be so casual about those things with an adult. But each time that I filled up my car at the Shell Station, it nagged at me. There was way too  much activity going on over there for my comfort level.

This time, I decided to take pictures as proof. Except on my camera, there’s no time marker. In one of my pictures, a guy in a blue hoodie, looked up and saw me. I pretended to be messing around with my camera, just taking odd shots to get it to work again. Always take a picture of your foot. (That’s an old street photographer’s trick).

On the way up the hill, I called 911. After all, that hoodie guy could be a drug dealer who had already memorized my plates and told his friends. I could be dead by morning and no one would know why!

The CHP operator transferred me to the Hemet Sherrifs’ Department, saying that I was “reporting suspicious activity.”

I told the dispatch operator what I knew, including the remark from the Idyllwild teen whose mother lives in Hemet. They took my phone number and said that they would send someone out to investigate.

‘Better take your guns,’ I prayed silently. ‘There’s going to be a shootout. No one gives up their drugs that easily.’

The building at 44518 Florida, is a legal marijuana dispensary

Within a few minutes, a Hemet police officer called me back.

“That’s a marijuana dispensary,” she said. “It’s legal.”

She said it had been operating for about a year now, and fellow officers have checked them all out for validity.

“That’s where people can go when a doctor prescribes them marijuana,” she said.

I thanked her and hung up. It must be like the medical marijuana places in Venice Beach that attract so much attention with tourists. That explains why this nondescript building in Valle Vista, with a huge address, has so much activity.

I ran a quick check for “marijuana dispensaries” on Google, but the 44518 Florida address didn’t show up. However, another one in Hemet and more in Palm Springs, Beaumont, Perris, Murrieta and Riverside, appeared.

Yet, I remain on guard. Could a medical marijuana place go bad?

“Yes, they closed the one in Menifee,” said Peggy, who lives in Menifee. “They were dispensing medical marijuana, but also selling it illegally on the side. Some citizen’s group shut them down.”

Could that be what’s happening in Valle Vista? Are they legally and illegally selling marijuana at the same time?

If everything was above board, then why do their customers only stay for two seconds? That’s the behavior of someone who doesn’t want to get caught, not a cancer patient who wants to feel a little better.

This marijuana dispensary is too close to my favorite Shell Station for comfort. If there’s a police shootout and one of the bullets hits a gas truck or tank, then everything could blow sky high!  Yep, I’ve seen it on TV! With my luck, I would be gassing up on pump number 7.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.