Coffee with a Cop addresses drugs, homelessness

By Monica Lambert
Special to the Sun

Photo by Monica Lambert / Special to the Sun:
Kern River Valley Sheriff Substation Sergeant Johnny Frisbie, flanked by members of the Lake Isabella – Bodfish Property Owner Assocation, talks about issues within local neighborhoods.

Kern County Sheriff’s Sergeant Johnny Frisbie started off the community meeting known as Coffee with a Cop, promptly at 9 a.m. on Wednesday May 8. Frisbie explained candidly that the other day shift deputies were on a call, and they would join the meeting when it was possible.

The Lake Isabella/ Bodfish communities were represented by members from the Lake Isabella Bodfish Property Owners Association (LIBPOA), and the owners/managers of several KRV businesses, as well as residents from Weldon and Southlake.

Most of the issues addressed were the same as they were at the meeting in January. They cited criminal activity in family neighborhoods and at businesses; day and night residential drug sales, and a rise in the homeless population.

One woman gave a detailed report of a theft she witnessed at her neighbors home and stated that she had provided the Sheriff with the name of the person responsible. She went on to say that he was living in the bushes near the burglarized home, and some of the stolen possessions were located in his “camp.” She then asked, “Why is this guy still on the street?” Sgt. Frisbie explained that perpetrators of misdemeanor crimes, (newly categorized after Prop 47), are run through the jail system and back on the streets quickly. The Sheriffs share in the communities frustrations when they arrest and re-arrest criminals over and over again.

Deputy Paul Freely and Deputy Steve Davis joined the discussion and expressed similar frustrations, stating, “We are out there doing our jobs, the best we can. We cannot control what the courts do.”

As the attendees shared concerns and even knew the names of many repeat offenders, the officers nodded and listened attentively. Often, they knew about the criminal and crimes already, but a few things seemed to be news to them. They promised to follow up on these issues wherever possible.

Debbie Freeland represented Supervisor Mick Gleason at the meeting and took notes to report back to him.

Kernville shop-owner Darlene Studdard told Sgt. Frisbie that five businesses have had doors or windows kicked in within the last 6 months. She wanted to know what was being done about it. She promised to be taking all of the information to Supervisor Gleason, and stated that the community of Wofford Heights, where she lives, is forming a Community Watch. Deputy Paul Feely told her that there are resources from Bakersfield that will help train and organize Community Watch Programs.

A resident from the Reeder Tract spoke in great detail about activities there, and stated that a recent foot patrol presence made a big difference. She encouraged the deputies to keep up their presence. Deputy Feely let them know that one known drug dealer had recently been arrested, and sentenced to significant time in jail, and that they are working hard on the others.

A gentleman from South Lake had issues with speeding on his 25 mph street. Deputy Feely reminded him that speeding tickets are mostly issued by the CHP. He promised to pass along info that was provided by the man.

While Sgt. Frisbie listened to the issues which were raised, he again reminded the audience that some of these incidents are considered an infraction or a misdemeanor, adding that it is not easy to make an arrest for a misdemeanor unless the officer sees it occur or the activity is caught on video.

Sgt. Frisbie explained that budget restraints make it hard to staff the Lake Isabella station, the busiest station in Kern County. Their deputies cover a minimum of 800 rural miles on every shift and other times when required to cover Ridgecrest and the desert, up to 1,800 square miles. He also said that all misdemeanor crimes are handled by the Ridgecrest DA and courts. All felonies are handled by the Bakersfield DA and courts.

The Sergeant and deputies thanked everyone in attendance for making a difference in the community.

The next Coffee with a Cop meeting will be in about 3 months and the date will be announced.