James Bovet may be the new sheriff's lieutenant in town, but the 10-year Ramona resident has plenty of experience under his belt he thinks will help this town, including an extensive background in crime and narcotics.
Bovet took over as the town's new sheriff's lieutenant last week after former Sheriff's Lt. Julie Sutton retired. Bovet has been with the sheriff's department for 23 years, with two years prior experience in Border Patrol.
“I was an explorer when I was a kid," Bovet told Patch. “I kind of always wanted to be a cop and I’ve always been a cop.”
The experienced lieutenant started out a deputy at the El Cajon jail and then patrolled the Encinitas area. Bovet also worked as a gang detective and worked narcotics in North County before working here in Ramona briefly.
“I came over in 1997-98 to here and I worked in Ramona as a narcotic detective until about 2002,” Bovet said. “That’s how I got to know Ramona, working the narcotics. Unfortunately, not the good Ramona.”
Bovet worked his way through the system, specializing in narcotics, child abuse, courts, patrol and eventually made lieutenant in homicide. He most recently served at the Fallbrook Substation for two months before coming back to Ramona to serve as the new sheriff's lieutenant.
“It was my shortest assignment ever, mostly because the opportunity to came work here,” Bovet said “It’s closer to home.”
Crackdown on Drugs and Crime
And now that he's here, Bovet is hoping to crack down on both crime and drugs in town, which have been on a rise recent.
“Our crime rate is through the roof. Over the last two years we’ve seen a dramatic increase,” Bovet said. “We’ve seen it countywide, but Ramona, unfortunately, took a hit.”
According to Bovet, the AB109 law has made crime rates higher, due to its tendency to push criminals out of jail more quickly than before.
“There are so many variables that you can’t point to any one thing for an increase or decrease, necessarily,” Bovet said. “But, when you combine things like AB109, where now we can’t keep people in jail.. now people do three weeks in county and they’re back out on the street. We sort of have a spinning wheel incarceration problem.”
The law change was passed in 2011 and makes "fundamental changes to California’s correctional system to stop the costly, ineffective and unsafe 'revolving door' of lower-level offenders and parole violators through our state prisons," according to the California government website.
“If we can’t keep the bad guys in jail, they’re going to get out and keep doing their crimes,” Bovet said. “There are people who want to be criminals their whole life, believe it or not.”
According to Bovet, the crime rate can somewhat be linked to the drug problem here in Ramona, noting that addicts are desperate for money which leads to burglaries.
“I would say we have a pretty huge dependency problem in this community,” Bovet said. “Heroin has really taken a hold up here... whenever you have heroin addicts, you have thefts. I think that’s having an impact on our theft statistics right now.” ”
Bovet told Patch that he's planning to initiate an information-led police mandate, which is a department wide policy, that will help focus on the most urgent of issues in town. He said that each month, the department will do crime analysis and pick three or four "action items" to really focus on.
“We’re going to look at crime analysis, we look at where things are occurring, who the people are that are doing them, what the MO is, what’s the fact pattern of the theft. And then we look at the known offenders, we prioritize action items and what will happen is, at the end of that meeting is we send out a flyer with three or four action items for the department to combat for the next 30 days.”
The department repeats each month and brings in more resources depending on the action items. At the end of the 30-day cycle, they figure out what works, what doesn't and adjust accordingly.
“At the end of that 30 day cycle... if we fixed it, it moves off the table and we bring in the next priority or the next problem in the community,” Bovet said. “Instead of a shotgun approach… it’s more ‘tip of the spear’ stuff.”
Sheriff's Lt. Bovet said that one way to keep you and your family safer is to look into crime-free multi-housing, a free program the sheriff's department runs for property managers that allows for safer living environment.
“A property can become crime-free multi-housing by going through some training,” Bovet said. “We come in with crime prevention and make suggestions to them (more lighting, better locks, gate needs to be fixed or added) and we also train the managers what to look for as far as crime trends and people that might be doing crimes.”
Everyone who lives in the complex has to sign a lease agreement that says if they violate the law, they get evicted, and the property becomes certified. The multi-housing complexes become a sort of safe-haven and Bovet said that military can only rent in crime-free multi-housing.
For those interested in learning more about where the crime-free multi-housing facilities are, you can ask for Crime Prevention Specialist Barbara Wallace at 760-789-9157.
“We’re going to be having a class very soon,” Bovet said.
Graffiti Be Gone
Graffiti is popping up all over businesses in Ramona and Bovet said there's a county-wide ordinance to help quickly cover the eyesore vandalism.
“We have a county ordinance in place that allows us to actually ticket owners who don’t paint over graffiti on their properties,” he said.
The sheriff's lieutenant said that they also have a graffiti tracker that works as such: every time there is graffiti, a picture is taken of it and it goes into a database. A detective monitors all of the works and patterns are usually found, resulting in a felony case.
“We do develop felony vandalism cases on those folks,” Bovet said.
But the new sheriff's lieutenant thinks that the "key" to curing the problem of graffiti is painting is over right away.
“Graffiti is a big deal. I hate graffiti,” he said. “It really can actually increase the crime in an area because it looks like no one is paying attention or caring.”
Working With a Great Team
Bovet said he's happy to be working in the town he lives and that though he wishes the department had a new station to work out of, he's glad his team under him is so experience.
“The guys have been here a long time and we have some real seasoned people and they definitely know how to do their job,” Bovet said. “It’s not like I have to come in here and do a lot of heavy lifting…I think maybe just some direction to give everyone some goals and where we’re going to head to combat some crime. Hopefully we’ll be successful.”