Desert community calls for more sheriff protection

BORON, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Residents in the small east Kern County community of Boron say crime is going up, and they need more protection from the sheriff's department.

Concerned citizens and business owners filled a stack of petitions with signatures, demanding a meeting to ask for more law enforcement.

They'll get that session. A town hall meeting is now set for 11 a.m. Friday. Residents who started the petitions say people in the community have had it.

"They're very scared," Lynda Haynes told Eyewitness News on Thursday. "This used to be a very safe community, and it doesn't seem to be that way any more."

Haynes owns the hardware store in the small town. It's one of three locations recently hit with break-ins.

Boron is east of Mojave off Highway 58. A couple blocks on Twenty Mule Team Road are the site of a couple restaurants, a handful of businesses, and museums dedicated to the community's role in the nearby borax mine and aerospace industry.

But, residents worry things have changed.

"I know that we're getting a lot of gang activity," Hayden said. "And L.A. is coming up here."

Boron's not far from the Los Angeles County line.

"People are actually kind of scared to go out after dark or even the day time," long-time resident Peggy Brackett said. "We'd like to have a deputy out here mainly after dark."

Haynes started the petition drive, and the stack of papers now sits on the desk of Kern County Sgt. Doug Wilson. He estimated there's more than a dozen pages, each with about 30 signatures.

He's been listening to the concerned residents, and knows about the worries over an influx of people from L.A.

"We just need to be recognized as part of Kern County, which we are," Brackett complained. "We're voters and citizens. We deserve protection."

So, what is the staffing level from the sheriff's department for Boron?

"At certain times of the night, there may not be a unit specifically assigned to the Boron area," Lt. Dave Barker told Eyewitness News. "But there are several units assigned in the desert area."

But, the sheriff's substation is in Mojave, and that's 30 minutes from Boron. The worried residents want more help, and they want it faster.

Hayden said they've heard some ideas like looking for more people who could join the sheriff's reserve. "We want to find out what the Sheriff is willing to do, and how they can help us in our efforts."

Barker said the department wants to hear from the community, and then respond.

"We have moved personnel throughout the east area of Kern County - throughout Kern County -based on the needs of the public," Barker said.

He also said the department wants information and a partnership with residents.

"They're part of the solution," Barker said. "They're a very important part, probably the most important part."

Sheriff Donny Youngblood is set to be at the Friday morning meeting, as well as 2nd District Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner.