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As many as 50 Mokelumne Hill residents gathered for a town hall meeting Sunday night to discuss recent crimes in the area.

The community of Mokelumne Hill had a town hall meeting on Dec. 12, with Lieutenant Greg Stark and Corporal Brian Terry of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office in attendance to address the town’s concerns about recent crimes in the area. District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi was also at the meeting. 

The sheriff’s office did verify that there has been a recent “uptick” in crime, though data used was not complete due to a current “IT issue.” Still, the “non-official” numbers Lt. Stark brought to the meeting indicated that while some months had a couple more or fewer crimes reported, overall it appeared to be in keeping with 2020’s statistics. There was only one month in 2021 that presented with numbers in the double digits, which may have been due to a random spike in criminal activity or possibly related to the technical issue Stark referenced. 

The town hall meeting was called by the Mokelumne Hill Neighborhood Watch group, run by Will Mosgrove and Shirley Nester. The meeting was announced on Facebook last month after a few recent thefts caused concern amongst the community. 

At the meeting on Dec. 12, the Neighborhood Watch committee announced its intent to explore the option of placing security cameras throughout the town, specifically at up to six different entrances and entrances to the town, which is intersected by Highways 49 and 26.

They also encouraged homeowners to purchase and install their own security cameras or alarm systems, with Nester saying there are many “cameras that are affordable” on Amazon.

The Neighborhood Watch committee also recommended locking doors to homes, vehicles, and gates, notifying trusted neighbors when going away and utilizing a “lockbox” style mailbox or stopping mail when away for an extended time. And, they emphasized that “if you see something, say something. If you can get it on video, get it on video.” 

Lt. Stark stated during the meeting that security cameras are a “huge deterrent” and could prevent crime or deter criminals from your property. Stark recommended registering security cameras with the sheriff’s department so that they can request footage, rather than go knocking door-to-door to find out who might have surveillance if there’s a crime in the area. Stark also clarified, “there’s a misconception out there...we can’t access it remotely. We have to knock on your door, we have to say ‘Hey, something happened in this timeframe, do you mind if we look at it?’ or can you look at it and email it to us.”

Stark also said that neighborhood groups like the Neighborhood Watch, and visible signage, are a deterrent to crime.

Along the line of notifying neighbors before you leave town, Stark advised that the sheriff’s department has volunteers who can do “vacation checks” when someone is going to be gone for an extended period of time. The volunteers will drive by a residence, check to see if vehicles are there, and make sure no one else is who shouldn’t be.

A more creative solution brought forward by Stark is something called “Smart Water,” a forensic liquid that is invisible to the naked eye and only detectable by a proprietary UV light source.

The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office has started utilizing this forensic tool in the last couple of years. According to the company’s website, the “traceable liquid assigns your possessions with their own unique forensic code, allowing them to be traced back to you and criminals back to the crime.” It is not only invisible to criminals but is resistant to solvents and designed to be used on automobile parts like catalytic converters. When painted on possessions, it becomes a tracking tool. If a possession is then stolen and obtained by officers, they can trace it back and return it to its owner.

Stark said that community members can contact him for a sample or a presentation of how it works.

The possibility of installing speed bumps in the area was brought up, but Stark advised that it could be up to a two-year-long process, so it wouldn’t make an impact on current crime issues. He suggested instead  to call and report anything “out of the ordinary,” and if someone is a victim of a crime (no matter how small) to let law enforcement know. 

“It’s not a bother,” said Stark.

Stark introduced Corporal Terry, who is the area’s assigned resident deputy. According to the sheriff’s office, resident deputies “focus their efforts in crime prevention by collaborating on community issues with residents, businesses, homeowners’ associations, schools, and other local and state agencies.”

Terry answered a question about how well security lights and alarm systems work to deter crime, saying, “We’ve had multiple instances where criminals try to break into a house, the alarm goes off, and they get scared off.”  

When asked about people “coming up from the river,” Terry also advised that law enforcement is aware of the homeless population in the Big Bar area of the Mokelumne River, and it is a local “hot spot,” with deputies driving by and checking on activity every day.

“We did recently have a task force that went down there that included BLM (the Bureau of Land Management), the sheriff’s office, and some other agencies, and we did run some people off. We’ve taken recently some felony warrant subjects out of there, gotten some stolen car stuff out of there recently, so it’s nothing we’re not aware of,” said Terry.

After the sheriff department’s presentation, Supervisor Garamendi addressed the community, saying “We do have relatively low crime in this county, but when it happens in your own town or (to) your neighbor, it feels like a lot of crime.” He also told those in attendance, “We’re really fortunate right now. We’ve got a great group of deputies and a great group of officers that are really putting a dent into things.” 

Nester also praised the sheriff's office, saying “Every time I’ve called, they’ve come. They’ve been awesome. So I’m very proud of them, and I’m very thankful for them for protecting our community, and we should all feel that way.”

In his closing comments, Stark advised, “If you leave here with anything, leave here with ‘I’m going to call them if I have a problem.’” 

To report a crime or suspicious activity to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office, or to inquire about registering your security camera, contact the sheriff’s office at their non-emergency dispatch line, (209)754-6500. In the case of an emergency, dial 911.

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Marie-Elena studied creative writing, art, and photography at University of Nebraska at Omaha, graduating with a BA in Studio Art -Visual Media. She moved to California from Nebraska in 2019 and is happy to call Calaveras County her home.

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