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Growing Neighborhood Watch

Manteca Police seeking to encourage more groups

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Growing Neighborhood Watch

This 2014 shows two members of the Del Webb at Woodbridge Neighborhood Watch patrol during the National Night Out block parties.

Bulletin file photo/


POSTED May 8, 2017 12:52 a.m.

There is a reason why Del Webb at Woodbridge has arguably the lowest neighborhood crime rate in Manteca.

It’s because neighbors look out for each other.

Del Webb has a Neighborhood Watch group. And as Neighborhood Watch groups go the Del Webb volunteers are legendary. Not only do they have the usual block captains, but they also patrol the community in golf carts and keep an eye on vehicles that enter the community that aren’t owned by residents.

“Neighborhood Watch Groups are very effective at helping combat crime,” noted Police Chief Jodie Estarziau.

In 2000, Manteca had over 100 official Neighborhood Watch Groups. They were credited with helping reduce burglaries and even vehicle thefts as members of the groups are more attuned into what are the normal routines of their neighborhoods. And because they actually met with members once a month or at least at yearly block parties, they become more aware of neighbors and noticed when things ere amiss and alert the police.

Over the years, the Neighborhood Watch eyes have not only made specific neighborhoods safer but have assisted police in catching burglars in the act by relaying where suspicious individuals were moving about while talking to dispatchers over the phone to help send police in the right direction.

The city’s 100 Neighborhood Watch group was the largest effort in Northern California. In 2000, they had five times the number in San Jose. The effort was being overseen back then by a dedicated community service officer — Rex Osborn — who also handled other duties.

Neighborhood Watch played a key role working in concert with community groups and the police to drive back gang influence in  the Southside Park neighborhood where during one summer drive by shootings were once a regular occurrence every two to there nights.

Osborn’s retirement followed by budget cuts saw the ranks of active Neighborhood Watch groups that work with the Manteca Police dwindle.

Manteca today has less than two dozen Neighborhood Watch Groups.

Estarziau wants to change that. And she also wants to go a step beyond that and possibly establish a series of community forums to discuss various issues. Some cities such as Ripon meet with the community via how beats are set up while others do it by topic. The goal is to hear community issues and concerns as well as to let the public know what they can do as well as laws governing how police can handle various issues.

In the coming months Sgt. Mike Aguilar will be working with the community to increase the number of official Neighborhood Watch groups.

The effort received a setback when the second community resource officer hired to join Mike Kelly abruptly resigned last month a week after completing his field training. The CRO positions were created by the City Council to tackle the homeless issue as well as address other needs with serving as Neighborhood Watch liaisons high on the list. The police chief said the search for a replacement CRO is underway.

Meanwhile people are encouraged to go to the city’s website, click on the Manteca Police page, scroll down to Public Affairs and click on neighborhood watch or go directly to www.ci.manteca.ca.us/police/PublicAffairs/Watch.aspx to find out what it takes to start a Neighborhood Watch group.

Estarziau said the “extra eyes” are extremely helpful given Manteca’s roughly 70 sworn officers that have to cover shifts 24/7 seven days a week can’t be everywhere.

The police chief said officers will meet with neighborhood groups in the evening as part of the effort.

The Neighborhood Watch groups dovetail into Manteca’s National Night Out block parties that take place the first Tuesday in August.

The idea of the informal neighborhood gatherings is to encourage neighbors to get to know others who live in the same area better so that they will be more cognizance of others as well as suspicious activity. 

To contact Sgt. Aguilar call 209.456.8124.

 

 To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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