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Call police, get bill

Downtown merchants feel abandoned by police, city

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Call police, get bill

Manteca business owner George Janis holds up a $700 bill from the City of Manteca for a handful of “false alarms.”


POSTED November 14, 2017 12:41 a.m.

George Janis knew the moment that the Manteca Police Department pulled up in front of his store that there were going to be problems.
But he didn’t think those problems would include a $700 bill from the City of Manteca stemming from a handful of supposed false alarm calls last month that he believes are directly related to him initially contacting the department for assistance.
According to the bill that Janis received in the mail, there were five instances of the Manteca Police and Fire Departments responding to calls from his security company that were determined to be false alarms. He wasn’t charged for the first or the second – one of which was months ago and the other on Oct. 8 – but was charged $100, $200, and $400, respectively, for the other three.
What’s shocking to the longtime Manteca businessman – whose family-owned music store on Yosemite Avenue has been serving local residents for 55 years – is that the Oct. 8 listing, which he believes kicked off a wave of attempted break-ins in retaliation for calling the police, was listed as a false alarm at all.
“They basically took the skylight on the roof apart and attempted to use a rope to get into the store until they tripped a sensor and the alarm went off,” Janis said. “And I don’t even know why that is listed – the police found a duffel bag on the roof along with a length of rope that they were obviously going to use to try and get into the store, and yet that gets listed here as a false alarm?
“That just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
According to Janis, he called the Manteca Police Department on Oct. 7 after his wife, Inda, noticed a man who was pacing behind her in the parking lot behind the storefront while she was walking their dog. In addition to making threatening comments, the man was also unsheathing and sheathing a 10-inch knife, Janis said, so he called the police and asked for them to respond.
After a brief wait, two patrol cars pulled up in front of the store, and while one officer walked straight over to the two men that they had called about, the other walked into the store – something that Janis believes led to the attempted break-ins.
“I asked the officer why he just came into the store because it tells the people that we called about exactly who it was that called on them, and I told him that somebody was going to smash the front window of the store in retaliation for that – that it has happened that way before,” Janis said. “He told me not to worry about it, and just after midnight I get the call from Bay Alarm and think to myself, ‘Here we go again.’
“And over the next five days the alarm was tripped three more times and I believe it was the same guys who kept coming back determined to get what they wanted and to send a message.”
As a merchant, Janis feels that he’s essentially being held hostage by unsavory elements that have taken over the Downtown Manteca that he’s known his entire life and turned it into a place that his customers are afraid to visit.
His wife has taken to carrying a stun gun and pepper spray on her during business hours. He feels that he’s trapped in a no-win situation – hesitant to call the police because he knows that retaliation is just around the corner, but needing the assistance that he feels as a taxpaying business owner with generational ties to the community that he’s entitled to.
“I’m really fed up with the situation that we’re facing down here, and I know for a fact that we’ve lost lessons because don’t feel safe coming down here at night,” Janis said. “From people smashing our front windows to people sleeping on the roof to this – I don’t know what else to do.”
As if the stress of the situation wasn’t enough, Janis is also recuperating from a liver transplant and is still taking expensive anti-rejection medication that a $700 fine wouldn’t allow him to purchase.
Inda Janis – who pointed out that they’ve already paid a $250 fine for not having an annual permit for their alarm system –  was a little bit more pointed in her assessment of a situation that she too feels has gotten out of control.
“I feel abandoned by our police department,” she said, visibly frustrated. “I’m past upset at this point, and I’d rather spend that $700 on my husband’s anti-rejection medication than put it towards something that wasn’t our fault to begin with.
“If we don’t feel safe in our own business, then what are we paying taxes for?”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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