Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Raasch said he’s glad to be back at the Guerneville substation where he’s in now charge of law enforcement for a huge chunk of western Sonoma County.
“This was my favorite place to ever work patrol,” Raasch said, speaking to the Guernewood Neighborhood Association (GNA) last Saturday in the Guerneville Library Forum Room.
As a sheriff’s sergeant Raasch worked on the river from 2007 to 2010, then served as a detective in Windsor and was promoted to lieutenant in January this year. He has worked in law enforcement for 30 years.
“I’m happy to come back here,” said Raasch (the pronunciation of his name rhymes with gosh, nosh or posh). “You don’t see a lieutenant out here very often.”
Raasch also worked on investigating the 2004 Jenner double homicide case in which two people camped on the beach were found shot to death. (A Forestville resident, Shaun Gallon, was arrested last year, charged with the murders and is awaiting trial in Sonoma County Jail.)
Raasch fielded questions last week from GNA members whose queries focused on familiar homeless issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, trespassing and mental instability.
The local homeless population spiked after the February Russian River flood disaster brought in added relief help. The transient population “got a lot worse right after the flood” said Raasch. “It’s gotten better since.”
The wide availability of local homeless services is a factor attracting homeless from out of the area, Raasch said. “There are a lot of services out here that attract people.”
For substation deputies, one challenge is getting to know local residents, including the homeless, who “are not all bad people,” said Raasch.
“Homelessness is not a crime,” said Raasch, “but there are quality of life issues, particularly related to drug and alcohol abuse.”
As a river substation deputy he got to know firsthand “the effectiveness of getting to know people” by walking frequently in the downtown commercial area, said Raasch.
As the river’s new lieutenant, Raasch said he’s encouraging substation deputies to find opportunities to get around town on foot and talk to people.
“Most of the law enforcement problems here are in the downtown area,” said Raasch. “We really need to do a better job out here” of making deputy presence known around town.
“I think overall it’s a pretty safe community,” said Raasch.
The river substation deputies are responsible for covering sheriff’s Zone 1 on the county map, an area that takes in the west county from Bodega Bay north to the Sonoma-Mendocino county border and the lower Russian River from Mirabel to the coast. In addition to the deputies at the Guerneville substation, there are three resident deputies assigned to patrol the Sonoma Coast.
GNA members also voiced concerns over a current county budget proposal that could eliminate a river substation sergeant and the community services officer.
“I don’t see that happening,” Raasch said. The decision will ultimately be up to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, he said. “We really need another deputy out here.”
With the busy summer tourist season approaching, Raasch cautioned residents to beware of car break-ins, especially when vehicles are left in river and coastal parking lots where thieves know personal items are left in cars.
As a general rule, “Don’t leave anything valuable in your car,” said Raasch. A practiced car burglar can break a window and grab valuables in the space of a few seconds, said Raasch.
If something doesn’t look right, said Raasch, “Call us. Let us deal with it.”
The Guerneville substation number is 707-869-0202. The sheriff’s dispatch phone is 707-565-2121. Dispatch is probably the best number, Raasch said.