CSD revises DUI plan to address concerns
A revised policy for DUI vehicle stops was presented at the Community Services District Security Committee Tuesday, and CSD legal counsel responded to questions the Rancho Murieta Association has raised about allowing Security patrol officers to attempt a voluntary stop by flashing amber hazard lights when they observe a vehicle being driven dangerously.
No RMA or Country Club representatives attended the hour-long meeting, although officials of both organizations have expressed concerns about the proposed policy. CSD staff, Director Betty Ferraro, CSD counsel Jonathan Hobbs and local media were present.
Changes in the policy start with the title. "Suspected" was added to the existing "DUI Vehicle Stop Policy" title, and a new paragraph addresses some of the concerns raised by RMA and Country Club officials. It states there is no intent “to restrict the residents’ or their guests’ responsible use of alcoholic beverages at their homes, community events or the Country Club. Although Security officers may be present at community events or at the Country Club as part of their routine patrol rounds, this policy is not intended to authorize DUI check-points, stake outs, or poaching (i.e. lie and wait) at the community events or at the Country Club.”
Hobbs reviewed his written responses to RMA questions about liability. Security Chief Greg Remson reported that he had provided the written responses to the RMA Compliance Committee Monday.
Remson said he spoke briefly with the Compliance Committee about “the possibility of an RMA non-arch rule regarding stopping” when a patrol vehicle displays amber caution lights. “I don’t think there’s much interest in that,” he added. “I think it’s all a liability issue that they’re looking at. And I can’t speak for them, but that’s the impression I get.”
Remson reviewed the background information he received from four homeowner associations he contacted about enforcement policies and practices. Three of the four homeowner associations “have enacted the vehicle section that allows law enforcement to enforce the vehicle code on the private streets. That doesn’t open up the streets to the public. It just allows enforcement by law enforcement of the vehicle code. That’s part of the CC&Rs, and then they have to go through the Board of Supervisors and get a resolution or ordinance to do that. ... There’s only one community that hires off-duty deputies and CHP ... they don’t do radar because they don’t want to have the streets surveyed” because of the 25mph limitation for golf cart use. But CHP enforces “everything else -- stop signs, seat belts, cell phones, registration, everything else,” Remson said, and the community rotates CHP use “a couple of days” throughout the week for four hours or so at a time. “And then they hire off-duty deputies similar to the way we do it,” he said.
Three of the four communities do vehicle stops with amber lights. “One of them absolutely will not do that,” Remson said. “They feel they’re security officers, not law enforcement officers, and that’s not part of their role. Two of the three focus on speeding, stop sign and DUI enforcement, and those are the primary safety issues. One of them enforces any safety violation, but pretty much any violation at all, although they may be pulling back from that because, as boards change, people have different ideas.”
Remson said in discussions here a concern about people fleeing instead of stopping “keeps coming up because using the amber lights in our situation is only for one thing, whereas other communities it’s for multiple things. So their argument is if you turn on the amber lights, the driver’s going to know it’s because they think it’s DUI ... People are saying that would push them to run because if I stop I might go to jail, if take off I’m going into my garage and I’m OK.”
Ferraro asked about the community’s views as reflected in the recent security survey. “I think it’s more law enforcement that’s not wanted,” Remson replied. “No matter how we vote (on the policy) this is not saying we approve or disapprove of drunk driving,” Ferraro said. The survey results were discussed later in the meeting.
Hobbs repeated the response he made at the CSD board meeting about liability in response to an RMA question. “The basic rule is as long as the officers act reasonably under the circumstances, which is the standard to be applied here, there should not be any liability.”
As for the use of amber lights, Hobbs said the district is authorized under state law to provide a security force and “amber lights are a component of that security, and if the district board is inclined to authorize that use for DUIs, I feel it’s appropriate.”
Hobbs said the private security licenses -- “guard cards” -- Security officers are required to have include training that “covers a number of areas, including citizen’s arrest, relationship between security officers and police officers, their limitations of power to arrest, restrictions on searches and seizures -- basic constitutional law in that regard, liability, ethics ... how to deal with emergencies....”
Hobbs said Chief Remson intends to have further training for patrol officers if the DUI policy is implemented.
Hobbs recommended declining the RMA request to be covered by CSD insurance unless “RMA is inclined to enact a rule that says that residents have to stop for the amber light, then I’d suggest you reconsider that.”
In response to another question about liability, Hobbs said he didn’t see any reason why the CSD would attempt to hold the RMA liable, but the CSD would reserve the right to pursue that action.
Hobbs’ answers to RMA’s questions, the revised DUI policy and the information about the homeowner associations are available in the committee meeting packet on the CSD web site.
Vandalism suspect makes restitution offer
One of the four suspects apprehended by Security patrol after a string of vandalism and malicious mischief incidents Sept. 22 “said he wants to contact the victims and do what he can to make it right,” Security Chief Greg Remson told the Security Committee. “I’ll pass that information on to the victims. But they have filed a crime report, so it’s up to them what they want to do.” Remson characterized fireworks being thrown against a house in one of the incidents as “a big deal.”
Security log entries for the early morning hours of Sept. 22 include reports of vehicle and house eggings, fireworks, and shining a laser pointer in the eyes of drivers.
After a 2 a.m. chase, Security patrol caught four subjects that the security logs describe as an ex-resident and three non-resident adult males who “admitted to this type of action in Rancho Murieta for several months.”
At the Security Committee meeting, Remson said the 19-year-old was mistakenly described as an ex-resident. “He splits his time between his mother’s house in town and his father’s house here. So his father’s well aware that he comes in, wasn’t well aware that he was up to mischief that night though,” Remson said.
Debra Lind, a resident whose husband’s truck was egged that night, posted about the incident later the same day on RM.com and offered a reward for information. She continued to post in the forum and shared the news that Security had four suspects.
Security survey results
There were more than 350 written comments on the 12-question security survey the CSD sent out to customers in July. “We’re trying to gauge how we’re doing and the concerns of the community for our security services,” Remson said. Fourteen percent of the respondents indicated they were satisfied with security as it is, about the same percentage as in 2007, when the previous survey was done, Director Betty Ferraro pointed out.
“People are concerned about DUI and that kind of thing. It may partially be because it’s in the forefront right now, when these surveys were coming out,” Remson said. “But I think it’s always been a concern.”
Vandalism is also a concern to residents. “We don’t have really major vandalism, but any vandalism is too much vandalism,” Remson said.
General Manager Ed Crouse directed the committee’s attention to the question about the vehicle code inside the gates. “A little more than 50 percent, 54 percent, said they don’t want that. ... They’re concerned about DUI ... but then the true way to stop it is to enforce the vehicle code and the majority of people don’t want that to happen,” Crouse said.
“Unfortunately ... that will not stop them,” Ferraro said. “They have to want to change themselves. They could wind up having umpteen DUIs ... and until the light bulb goes on in their brain and they change their behavior ... this is not going to help any.”
“RMA has to adopt the code,” Crouse said. “So when RMA sees this, they’re going to say we recognize that the residents don’t want us to do that.”
“Country Club, the same thing,” Ferraro agreed.
Ferraro and Crouse noted that the response to vehicle code adoption on the private streets was virtually the same as the 2007 survey.
Ferraro said the survey showed “some people don’t know what CSD can do and what RMA can do, and we’re still fighting that battle, time after time after time.”
“I think overall, the answers for the gate operations North and South, are good,” Remson observed. “And the patrol I think is good, too. More dissatisfied than the gates, but still overall positive. We take these comments and all the officers will read them, and we’ll look at them and see if there are things that we can do to tweak our responses and our actions ...”
The survey results are in the meeting packet.
- A DUI arrest in September involved a 23-year-old resident. “He was contacted in the back area for a rule violation, didn’t want to talk to the officer so the officer followed him home and made contact with him at his house, and he was clearly under the influence,” Remson said. The incident was part of the discussion about DUI arrests by Security patrol officers that occurred at the CSD meeting last month.
- The Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers will begin setting up barriers this week around three locked gates on its undeveloped property in the back area. “They’re going to use a combination of rocks, boulders, and downed trees that are already back there,” Remson said. The goal is keep out vehicles, including golf carts, while “bicyclists and hikers are more than welcome,” he said.
- A Security patrol officer responded to a complaint about underage drinking at Bass Lake about noon on a Sunday in September. “As he completed the call and everyone was gone, he was approached by a 21-year-old resident who made verbal threats towards the officer, and as that person was leaving, the officer felt he was trying to hit him with his truck,” Remson said. “So a sheriff’s report was filed and it is in the process of working its way through the system. The incident also appears in the RMA rule violation citations for the month. The interference rule applies “when people won’t comply with a Security officer’s direction, or makes threats,” Remson said. Specifically, it applies to foul or abusive language, intimidation, harassment, threats or actual violence directed at RMA or CSD employees, Remson said.
- Fifteen political signs that were taken from eight houses on Guadalupe Drive were recovered. “They were put on somebody else’s yard,” Remson said. “On a different day, a sign was taken and replaced with the opposing candidate’s sign.”
- A truck and boat were taken during an event last month at the Murieta Equestrian Center.