As we close out 2023, we're taking a look at some of the bigger crime stories in the Valley.
Homicides are down but other types of crime are on the rise, reflecting what's happening across the nation.
The Gold Store on South Palm Canyon in Palm Springs targeted by thieves with masks and hammers in broad daylight back in August.
Smash and grabs at jewelry stores, like the one at this summer at the Palm Desert Mall and another along El Paseo at Brandon Boswell Diamonds in October were more common in 2023 across the valley.
Nationally there's been an uptick in store thefts and organized retail crime. It's happening here too at high-end stores like the Gucci on El Paseo, twice robbed of merchandise in a two-week period.
While retail crime is the story this year, it was homicides in 2022 with 37. The numbers dropping significantly in 2023.
Looking at the total number of homicides in the valley over the past 4 years, we discovered three years in a row there were over 30, this past year 17 have been reported so far. Of the nine valley cities, Indio had the highest number of homicides including a high school celebration in July where an 18-year-old was shot and killed. Three others were injured but survived.
“Kids, hundreds of kids just running and scrambling everywhere," said a neighbor who heard the gunshots.
No arrests made in this case, the investigation continues.
Breaking down the numbers for valley cities with their own police departments, there’s been a decrease in homicides across the board this year.
Palm Springs reported zero homicides compared to 5 last year. Cathedral City with 1 compared to 2 in 2022, Desert Hot Springs also with 1 and 6 the year before. Indio with the most coming in with 5 compared to 7 reported last year.
Cities covered by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department also saw a decrease.
Nine reported so far, with one case pending compared to 19 last year.
Indian Wells with had no reported homicides. Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta and Coachella reported one apiece.
Coachella had the most last year of all valley cities with nine.
Although there are fewer homicides, a number of them have not been solved. In La Quinta on August 14th, a 16-year-old was found dead inside a vehicle in the Kohls parking lot. Authorities said he was shot. A 17-year-old was detained but charges have yet to be filed.
In Palm Desert, the husband of a woman found dead in her home is still being sought as the person of interest. Sandra Mayor, who owned and ran a pet grooming business was killed by traumatic injuries, according to authorities.
2023 saw a number of court cases wrap-up that have made headlines through the years.
Jose Larin Garcia, found guilty in his second trial in the killings of four people in Palm Springs in 2019. it was a fentanyl drug deal gone bad. The jury recommended the death penalty. Sentencing is scheduled for late January 2024.
And, 15 years later, all of the players in the 2008 murder of Palm Springs art dealer Clifford Lambert have been convicted, this after years of delays and 4 of the 6 suspects getting retrials because of a judge’s inappropriate comments that were recorded in the courtroom. Two of the convicted, Daniel Garcia and David Replogle have yet to be sentenced.
And, some good news for an unsolved murder five years in the making, finally catching a break with the arrests of two suspects. Popular jiu-jitsu instructor Ramon Diaz from Cathedral City was shot and killed outside of his home. 48-year-old Kipko Griffin and 44-year-old Troy Walter Edmund were charged in Diaz’ murder. Both held on a million-dollar bail.
Again the big crime stories this year in the valley centered around theft, organized retail crime including smash and grabs. Valley leaders, local authorities and the sheriff’s department are working with the County and the State to find ways to crack down on these types of crimes, and to help businesses be more pro-active with deterrent methods.