The Hemet police station has been fortified for the new century.
After being targeted for six months in a series of failed attacks on officers, the Police Department has spent more than $220,000 in security improvements at the downtown station off Latham Street.
The station is now surrounded by wrought-iron fencing, floodlights and surveillance cameras.
Lt. Duane Wisehart stands in the Hemet Police Department night lobby where bullet-resis- tant glass has been installed. Several attacks in the past year prompted security changes.
“Since they weren’t successful in blowing up our building, we’re making new upgrades to the one we’ve already got,” Hemet police Lt. Duane Wisehart said, referring to attacks that New Year’s Eve 2009. Police were targeted in at least nine attacks on their vehicles and various police facilities.
The incidents ended following the arrest of two men, Nicholas Smit and Steven Hansen, who are awaiting trial charged with four of the incidents.
Attacks included rerouting the natural gas line to the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley Gang Task Force satellite office, an evidence storage facility behind the station and an arson that destroyed the police firing range in the remote hillsides outside the city. The downtown police station was never damaged.
As part of the improvements, police have walled-off the front lobby counter and the after-hours jail lobby with bullet-resistant glass.
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A monitor in the holding cells area shows the entrance on the other side of the wall.
Juanita Avenue, which runs between the station, Fire Department and the Hemet Public Library is now fenced off where officers park and enter the station. Gates also surround a rear entrance where inmates are transported to and from the jail located inside the station.
Officers and Hemet emergency dispatchers have a full view via cameras that surround the station, which also allows officers to see what’s outside before leaving the building.
The station’s windows are now coated in a blast-proof protective layering to resist an explosion and reduce visibility from the outside.
The improvements were funded through an emergency declaration the city passed last year to issue no-bid contracts. The city received $150,000 grant for improvements and $15,000 in county funds from Supervisor Jeff Stone. The City Council approved $55,000 in security improvements.
The improvements bring the station up to date from when the station was first built in January 1960, Wisehart said.
“Back then they didn’t need this type of protection. It was wide open,” Wisehart said. “We’re doing everything to bring this up to speed as a modern police station that were never made a priority until now.”