A Super Full Moon Police Ride Along
DESERT HOT SPRINGS – It was a super full moon last weekend and the night’s sky over the Coachella Valley’s shined more brightly than usual. That’s a good thing, according to DHS Police Officer Danny Brazeal who served as my police escort during a Friday night ride-a-long.
Brazeal, 33, has been a DHS police officer for three and a half years. He drives one hour from his home in Riverside which adds two extra hours to his already long 12-hour work shift. He works four days on and three days off.
“I like working in a small town because I know everyone. I know who’s trouble and who’s good. DHS has 97 percent good people and about three percent bad,” Brazeal said. “Palm Springs has a lot of issues, but we get the bad rap,” he added.
The DHS Police Department has hired a lot of good guys since 2008 and they are a tightly knit group with their finger on the pulse of the community. “Neighbors and residents are our best sources of information. They don’t have to get involved, but they do have to call us.”
The largest number of police service calls are about past residential burglaries that take place between Hacienda Avenue and Eighth Street. However, crystal methamphetamine drug use is the biggest problem because it leads to most of the breaking and entering (B & E) crimes, he said. “There is a lot more action in the summertime when it’s warm at night. During the winter, when it cold outside, the bad guys don’t come out.”
Around 8 p.m., our first B & E call came over the radio and lit up the patrol car’s massive computer screen. Mario Garcia, age 80, who has lived in DHS for 25 years reported that he was sick and tired of the break ins. Garcia owns a dozen properties in town and this vacant house, which is currently in escrow, fell victim to one on Friday. Luckily, Garcia’s neighbors called to report the suspicious noises and activity before too much damage was done.
Another B & E was reported in the 65800 block of Ironwood Avenue by Cheryl Winsor and Linda Lane, residents of Simi Valley who also own a weekend getaway home in DHS. They returned to their desert retreat Friday night to find their front door kicked in and their house ransacked and robbed.
The thief stole a refrigerator full of beer and champagne and cabinets full of liquor bottles, which he hauled out with a cooler on wheels, leaving a trail of dirt on their polished hardwood floors. Also stolen was a karaoke machine, a stack of CDs and DVDs, as well as a slew of other items.
However, the thief ate some old food and vomited on a coffee table. He also left behind an empty can of Arizona Ice Tea. Brazeal seized the can as evidence which he processed through the fingerprinting lab later that night.
“We just may have this guy in our data banks,” Brazeal said. “Do you want to press charges, if we can ID this guy?” The two women agreed and asked how to obtain a police report for their insurance company. The couple said they loved their desert retreat but may put their house up for sale.
“I feel so violated,” Winsor said. “I don’t want to deal with this kind of thing again.” Luckily, the thief was not a savvy memorabilia collector. He left behind a valuable collection of action hero dolls and vintage comic books.
Later that night, Brazeal staked out the corner of Pierson Blvd. and Cactus Drive where we watched numerous cars fail to stop completely. One driver in a red Chrysler 300 blatantly blew through the stop sign. Brazeal turned on the patrol car’s blue lights and pulled him over, but since the driver was respectful and said he just got off work, he was issued a warning. Another driver was not so lucky. He made a quick furtive turn because he was driving with an expired registration and a suspended driver’s license. Brazeal cited him but didn’t impound the truck because there were two small children in the back seat and their mother riding in front.
“I’m a father, and I don’t want those kids, in the future, to remember that the police arrested their dad for a DMV paper violation. My motto is to ‘ticket, arrest and educate,’” he said.