Soboba’s Department of Public Safety works hard to provide needed services for all residents of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Reservation and surrounding areas. Always looking for ways to continue its important work, Director of Public Safety Brian Herritt recently applied for and received a grant to open a Victims Assistance Center near the DPS offices.
“One of our long-term goals was to create a program that linked our DPS and Family Services together and offered these types of resources to our tribal community,” Herritt said. “When the opportunity to apply for this grant presented itself, we jumped at the opportunity.”
The grant, from the National Congress of American Indians and NCAI Fund, was made available in June of 2020. Eligible tribal nations could use the funds to support victim service activities across a range of tribal departments.
“In 2020, DPS moved into the vacant old Casino site that once housed the Gaming Commission, surveillance and reception area for employees,” Herritt said. “The old employee check-in center was a vacant modular prior to securing the funding to create the new Victims Assistance Center.”
The center was designed by the DPS leadership team as a collaborative project, using the grant funds to refurbish the building and furnish it properly. It also funded the salary for a coordinator, emergency housing kits and a dedicated vehicle for use by the coordinator.
“The confidentiality of the clients is one of our top priorities,” Herritt said. “The location of the center was chosen because it is part of the DPS facility. It is also away from the normal traffic flow on the reservation. We refer to the clients by a designated number to remove using their identifying information as much as possible. We want the community to come to us and understand and appreciate the need for confidentiality.”
Isrreal Zagarnaga was hired as the Victims Services Coordinator and Investigator. He had been a Lead Officer for day shift operations at the DPS for almost five years. He received additional training in peer counseling and crisis intervention at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Ben Clark Training Center.
He will be able to assist with emergency food, shelter and clothing needs, transportation to emergency shelter or housing, court and other victims’ services locations and provide resources and contact with Riverside County Sheriff’s officers, family services, treatment facilities and counseling services.
At the center, he can help those that need computer access for case management services and he will assist with safety courses for children as well as self-defense training for women and children (when available, due to current pandemic restrictions). He will also continue to assist Soboba DPS with welfare checks.
“I’m looking forward to being able to provide help and services to members of the community, many who I have formed friendships with over the years working with Soboba DPS,” Zagarnaga said. “I’m excited to also show the community that Soboba DPS covers many roles for this community besides security. I look forward to showing the community that we are providing these services because we care for their wellbeing, safety and quality of life.”
Currently, Zagarnaga is the only full-time employee but a dispatcher has been temporarily assigned to assist with administrative duties.
“What I love about this center is that it is made to support and help our tribal community,” Herritt said. “This center will service any victim of any crime in any way we can. We will assist Tribal Members, residents, employees and others within our Soboba tribal community. We are a service-centered department and we are blessed to have the opportunity to offer these services to our community.”
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians