Posts Tagged ‘South Fork Trail’

Possible Drug Bust at South Fork Near Idyllwild

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

A large pullout near the South Fork Trail is deserted now, but had a lot of police activity Wednesday

By Marcia E. Gawecki

At around 10:55  a.m. on Wednesday, July 21, a sheriff’s helicopter (No. 12) flew overhead and landed in the pullout near South Fork Trail on Hwy. 243, near Mountain Center. A cloud of brown dust from the landing covered the road, and motorists found it difficult to see. One man in a truck camper pulled over immediately.

When the helicopter landed, a man in khaki gear (without a hat or helmet), got out and started walking towards a sheriff’s van that was blocking the entryway into the pullout. The sign on the van read: “Law Enforcement.” There were several other sheriff’s vehicles parked in the pullout, but it was difficult to read their markings.

A sheriff's helicopter landed on this site

Was this a drug bust in progress? More than likely. I’m no investigator, but I used to be a reporter for the Idyllwild Town Crier newspaper, and crime was my beat. Whenever there’s a sheriff’s helicopter circling these parts, it’s usually a drug bust.

Years ago, when the Sheriff’s Department, Hemet Station, along with other drug enforcement agencies, made a large drug bust near Idyllwild, the Public Information Officer (PIO) called the Idyllwild Town Crier. Jenny Kirchner, the photographer, raced down to capture candid shots of tons of marijuana being hoisted from the mountains via a sheriff’s helicopter.

“It was one of the largest drug busts in years,” said Gerry Franchville, the PIO at the time. The helicopter photo made the front page of the paper, and I wrote the article based on what Gerry told me.

One interesting aspect is that, Gerry said, is that marijuana fields are a different color from the trees.

“They’re usually a lime green color,” he said.

During that monumental drug bust, the sheriff’s deputies got the loot, but the growers got away.

The pullout near the South Fork Trail has been an attractive spot for drug activity

The same South Fork pullout has been an area of potential drug activity for years. There have been cars, vans and trucks parked there late at night whenever I’d drive by. And it’s not just tired motorists talking to each other.

One time, at the South Fork pullout, while picking up cans to recycle, I noticed a bleach bottle sitting underneath a fir tree. I picked it up to throw it away, but it was full. Now, why would a full bleach bottle be there in the pullout? Anyone who has studied drug behavior knows that drug addicts often use bleach to “sterilize” their needles while “sharing.” I decided to leave the bleach bottle alone.

When I contacted the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Hemet Station, this afternoon, I left a message with the desk officer, Sgt. Jeff Wagman. I told him that I wanted to speak with Gerry Franchville, the PIO, to get some more information on the South Fork activity, but he hadn’t returned my calls by the 1:15 p.m. post time.

If there had been a drug bust near South Fork today, they’ll want to tell us about it. For Riverside County Sheriff’s Department press releases, visit www.riversidesheriff.org/press. Revised August 15, 2016

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