Residents of Clear Creek, Westwood and Pinetown took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions on a variety of governmental issues during a Town Hall meeting Thursday, April 11, sponsored by Mountain Meadows Community Watch.
Chris Gallagher, District 1 supervisor for Lassen County, and Susan Rios, Lassen County district attorney, were available to answer questions. Lassen County Sheriff’s Deputies were also available including John Bohl, a captain with the Sheriff’s Office.
The Town Hall also provided an opportunity for residents to learn more about Neighborhood Watch programs and how crimes are prosecuted.
Marty Growdon read questions presented by the audience and Larry Bradshaw assisted with moderation, both are members of the executive board for Mountain Meadows Community Watch.
The audience was told crimes need to be reported in a timely manner. According to Rios, the sooner the crimes are reported the easier it is to track down evidence and witnesses in order to prosecute. Bohl said reporting unusual or suspicious activity is important. For example, a car speeding down the road could be leaving the scene of a crime.
Responding to a comment that people are hesitant to make a report for fear of retribution, Bohl said the sheriff’s office tries to keep such information confidential by developing independent reasons for interacting with an offender.
Code enforcement is still an issue even though Westwood was the focus of code enforcement officers for most of a year. Gallagher said during that period many abandoned cars were removed from the alleys. Thirty-five properties have been completed with about 70 code enforcement cases in Westwood still open. He told residents to continue to fill out forms on violations so problems are not forgotten. When several Pinetown residents complained of commercial activity in their neighborhood, which is zoned residential, he told them to submit the forms until the problem is addressed.
Bohl said squatters and burglars target vacation homes. He added that if people are moving into a house at night they are usually squatting. Community Watch programs are a good way of addressing this problem.
With more snow falling this winter, residents had questions about snow removal. One concern was the amount of unregistered vehicles blocking plows so roads were not properly cleared. Rios said if a vehicle is blocking clearance during snow removal a call to the California Highway Patrol will result in it being towed.
A second concern was the way the plowing was done. Gallagher said that most of the road maintenance crew in Westwood was new this winter and inexperienced at clearing snow. Also a piece of equipment broke down. He reported that Lassen County has purchased a new snowplow for Westwood. One resident said her property had been damaged and Gallagher advised she submit a claim with the county.
Drug use and the resulting problems were also discussed. Rios said certain laws make addressing the issue more difficult. Unless a person is selling drugs, possession is a misdemeanor rather than a felony. No matter the amount a person possesses when arrested it is difficult to prove he or she is selling the drug. Gallagher said some of the major drug houses in Westwood had been cleaned up.
Bohl emphasized the role of neighborhood watch groups in eradicating crime. He said these groups were able to meet with representatives of the sheriff’s office to go over crimes in the area and exchange ideas.