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MANTECA CAMPING IS ILLEGAL

Save for one exception, it is allowed by permit only

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MANTECA CAMPING IS ILLEGAL

Manteca Police Community Resource Officer Mike Kelly orders an illegal camper in an RV to leave a shopping center parking lot.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/


POSTED August 21, 2017 1:10 a.m.

A year ago homeless were bedding down for the night even before the sun went down in front of the Chase Bank and beneath the covered walkway leading to Food-4-Less and other stores at the Spreckels Park Marketplace.

More than a few irate citizens complained Manteca Police weren’t doing anything about the problem when they were called.

But because the encampment was taking place on private property, under state and federal laws Manteca Police were powerless to do anything.

The situation has changed.

The City Council in June 2016 modified the municipal “no camping” ordinance.  Camping of any type for anyone requires a permit issued by the police chief with one exception —  a one-night allowance  for friends or family of the owner of private property as long as the owner consents and it is not more than one consecutive night.

That has allowed police to combat situations such as were occurring at Spreckels Marketplace where at one point as many as seven homeless would bed down for the night by storefronts.

 The ordinance change was aimed at making sure the rights of everyone — residents and the homeless alike — are respected while making it clear what can and can’t be done. It also allows the city to enforce the rules and better withstand legal challenges.

Private property where public access is not encouraged has a different problem. Police can’t legally assume someone is not supposed to be on the property whether it is a vacant lot or a parcel used for residential or business purposes that isn’t tied to retail storefronts and shopping center parking lots.

That is why property owners need to file a “trespass arrest authorization” with the Manteca Police.

It is the same tool that Manteca Police was able to employ with foreclosed homes in the housing crisis triggered by liar loans.

Police would respond to neighbors’ complaints about people being in vacant houses. But when the complaining party wasn’t the property owner or an authorized representative of the owner, they were powerless under state and federal law to do anything.

The police did launch efforts to find owners. Often times the property’s mortgage was split between two or three different banks requiring contacts to be made with both to secure “trespass arrest authorization.” In many instances it took months dealing with banks after tracking down ownership through property tax rolls to get the legal authorization to arrest trespassers. Once the authorization was in hand, Manteca police were legally allowed to city, arrest or chase off trespassers whether they were homeless, vagrants or individuals “partying.”

Filing the “trespass arrest authorization” is one of the key tools now being employed to give the police the ability to arrest those camping or bedding down on private property — homeless or not. 

It is one of a number of steps the police have indicated citizens can take to help in the effort to reduce crime connected with homeless individuals, vagrants, or other.

The camping ordinance modification coupled with the “trespass arrest authorization” has allowed police to quickly address encampment issues on private property in Spreckels Park that is not within Caltrans right-of-way. The courts have determined illegal encampments by the homeless on such public property must be tagged given the individuals a set number of days to clear out before the city or Caltrans crews remove the encampment.

 

The details of the

no camping ordinance

The police chief has the authority to issue a permit for camping in a motor home or trailer on public property in a residential district for no more than five convective days. Once that permit is expired, an extension can be requested. 

That request must be denied though if:

uThe applicant is not a bona fide resident of the city of Manteca.

uThe proposed location is not on a street adjacent to the applicant’s residence. 

uThe out-of-town visitor is not the applicant’s guest; 

uInformation submitted by the applicant is materially false.

Overall, no temporary  camping permits will be issued to an applicant for a period in excess of 10 days within any 90-day period.

The ordinance change also made it illegal to camp, occupy camp facilities, or use camp paraphernalia in the following areas:

uThe Manteca Transit Center at 220 Moffat Blvd.

uThe Moffat Community Center at 580 Moffat Blvd.

uAny public property except when the person is sitting or lying on public property between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. of the following day. That means using areas such as public sidewalks for that purpose  between those hours.

The ordinance is modeled of those in other California cities where the municipal code has passed muster with legal challenges. It essentially acknowledged the need of homeless to sleep — hence the reference to sitting on lying on public property for a seven-hour period between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. It also allows enforcement of quality of life laws impacting the entire community.

It also means police know in advance who has permission to camp on private property, if anyone.

 

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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