Grass Valley increases efforts to curb crime |

Grass Valley increases efforts to curb crime

The Grass Valley Police and Fire Departments are working together to reduce illegal camping and campfires in the city. New surveillance technology which the city plans to purchase, including a heat-seeking drone, may soon aid in that effort.
Elias Funez/ |

Some Grass Valley residents say crime is rampant throughout the city and have urged city councilmembers to take steps to address the issue.

City staff and councilmembers say they are listening, and have begun making changes to help residents feel safer.

On Tuesday, the city council voted to hire an extra police officer and a community services officer for the Grass Valley Police Department.

Councilmembers also authorized the purchase of motion-sensing surveillance cameras and a surveillance drone — equipment Police Chief Alex Gammelgard hopes will help curb criminal activity and reduce fire risks.

Cameras will be installed in various locations around the city, including parks, and will have the capability to notify police officers when motion is detected in a certain area. Gammelgard said an officer could set up text message alerts when a camera detects motion in a park after it has closed for the night.

The surveillance drone, which will include heat-seeking technology, will help the Police and Fire Departments spot illegal camping and campfires, Gammelgard said.

“Right now, if we see smoke, or if we believe there may be some illegal camping activity … we are basically looking for a needle in a haystack,” he said.

In August, the city implemented new regulations in an effort to address illegal camping and the associated fire risks, including an updated camping ban and tougher vegetation management rules. The police and fire departments, Gammelgard said, have been working together and allocating extra hours to enforce those regulations.

“There’s no doubt that the community has voiced a concern about their feeling of safety, and these are all direct responses to that,” he said.

Mayor Howard Levine said the city is making good progress in addressing issues related to crime and safety.

“I’m feeling positive about the stuff we’re doing,” he said.

Grass Valley resident Patti Galle thanked councilmembers at their Tuesday night meeting for being proactive in responding to community members’ concerns.

“If we’re going to complain, we’d better come in and thank you,” Galle said, referring to complaints made by the public at previous council meetings that the council wasn’t working hard enough to address crime. “For the past two months, the parks have been fantastic.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email or call 530-477-4231.

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