A town hall meeting at Murphys Community Park drew a large crowd on July 26, with local officials fielding residents’ questions about crime, traffic issues and public safety.

Organized by Murphys Community Club, the meeting began with a series of pre-submitted questions directed at the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office regarding a home invasion and serious battery that was reported on Murphys’ Main Street in the early morning hours of June 26.

The anonymous inquirer asked if it was true that “the assailant was underage, and nothing can be done.”

Sheriff’s office Public Information Officer Sgt. Greg Stark responded that the incident is under active investigation, therefore limited details could be shared with the public.

“No matter the age of the assailant, something can be done,” he said. “We are going to finish this investigation. We’re going to find out the truth as the evidence takes us. If it’s a juvenile, they’ll be held to answer. If it’s an adult they’ll be held to answer.”

Additionally, Stark addressed rumors that the alleged victim’s firearm had been confiscated from his residence.

“No firearms were confiscated. We were unable to secure the residence and, with the permission of the victim, took a firearm that was in the residence for safekeeping so, in case somebody broke back in, they wouldn’t have access to this firearm,” he said. “Since then, we’ve been in communication with the victim and told him the firearm is in our evidence room. He is more than welcome to come down at any time and pick it up. He has chosen not to do that at this time.”

Sheriff Rick DiBasilio then spoke regarding additional “rumors” circulating on social media that the sheriff’s office had omitted the incident from their media bulletin. He explained that the incident was logged at Main Street even though it reportedly took place at a residence on nearby Scott Street.

“The incident occurred on Main Street because that’s where we contacted the victim,” DiBasilio said. “So when we start getting these calls that we’re lying, and I hate that term, that we’re trying to hide stuff, you don’t understand. … Be very careful how you perceive things and how you listen to social media. Social media is a whirlwind of problems sometimes, and this is one of them.”

The sheriff’s office presented a printout of countywide crime stats for Jan. 1 through July 15, which listed the top-occurring crime as violation of a court order to prevent domestic violence, followed by second-degree burglary, assault with a deadly weapon not a firearm and domestic violence.

“(Calaveras County) is lower in crime statistics than most counties in the state. In general, our calls for service are 911 hang-ups, trespassing and general misdemeanor crimes,” Stark said. “Overall, Murphys is quite low compared to Calaveras County stats, and that’s in part due to extra patrols and community involvement.”

The sheriff’s office information printout states that there have been 174 extra patrols between the listed dates. One deputy is regularly assigned to the Upper Highway 4 corridor.

Stark advised residents of Murphys not to be complacent due to relatively low crime rates—to install home surveillance cameras if possible and remember to lock their doors.

Other questions and complaints from the public included concerns about increased incidences of shoplifting, illegal parking and drunk driving during the busy summer weekends on Main Street, with residents requesting greater police presence during those times.

DiBasilio stated that his department’s budget does not currently allow for a dedicated Main Street patrol but that business owners should not hesitate to call 911 in the event of shoplifters and belligerent patrons.

California Highway Patrol Commander for the San Andreas Area Lt. Mayolo “Mayo” Banuelos added that residents should be on the lookout for and report drunk drivers, as well as reckless drivers.

One attendee suggested that the town fund a private security service, while others encouraged residents to become volunteer sheriff’s deputies.

Later on, county Health Officer Dr. Rene Ramirez spoke on the increasing presence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in a county with roughly 40% of its population fully vaccinated.

“Calaveras County has a fatality rate of about 2.5% this far. Well, let’s do some simple math. There are 50,000 people in Calaveras County, more or less. What’s 2.5% of 50,000 people? 1,250. How many people are here today? About 120?” Ramirez said. “I want to get rid of Covid. I’m just as frustrated as you are with many things. … Each and every person here can help get rid of Covid. The naysayers, the people who say, ‘Why do I care,’ those are the people who are going to perpetuate Covid. That’s the bottom line.”

Ramirez implored residents to use “common sense” and get vaccinated.

“There are three ways to get rid of Covid,” he said. “There’s vaccines, there’s distancing, which nobody is doing here today, and there’s masking, which a few people are doing.”

Towards the end of the meeting, sheriff’s office representatives announced their support for recurring public meetings in Murphys and other parts of the county.

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Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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