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Manteca Police can’t wage war on crime alone

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POSTED August 2, 2010 1:53 a.m.
Some place along the line we’ve gotten the impression that police double as private security guards.

If a burglar hits our house or a vandal tags our fence we often times lament about the lack of police presence. Doubling, tripling or quadrupling our police force won’t eliminate crime. That’s because law enforcement is only one part of the puzzle that includes the criminal justice system, the criminal element motivated by a variety of things ranging from gang membership and drugs to old-fashioned dishonesty, and fear-mongering.

You can debate until you’re blue in the face but a number of studies show the chance of us becoming a victim of crime such as residential burglary, murder, and even at the hand of a drunken driver has dropped over recent years. Still, there is crime and it isn’t a minor problem especially if you or I are a victim of it.

About the best way to reduce our exposure to crime is to heed Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker’s advice: “Criminals are like water. They will go where there is the least resistance.”

He is referring to three things. Yes, the more police presence and the more law enforcement officers we have taking proactive measures plus long-range deterrents such as getting at-risk youth into positive outlets are a key. There is a third item that we all too often overlook - us.

Police are only as effective at fighting crime as we help make them.

While there is basically nothing that the general public could have done to stop last week’s horrific murder on East Yosemite Avenue, that isn’t the case with most crime. That is the premise behind National Night Out.

Knowing your neighborhood and your neighbors makes you the first defense against crime. If something is amiss you are the eyes of the police. It doesn’t take much to pick up the phone and tell a neighbor that their garage door has been left open and it’s after dark or if there is something that looks out of place. The same goes for calling the police when you see a suspicious person in the neighborhood.

 Two years ago as I was heading home at 2 a.m., two Manteca Police cars pulled up behind me on Powers Avenue. They turned while I went straight another block. One of the police units beat me to my house. A neighbor across the street - who happened to be outside smoking a few minutes earlier - noticed someone in my carport. As he was watching the guy tried to scale my side fence. That prompted a quick call to 9-1-1. The individual, after failing to clear the fence went on my front porch, pushed at the door, and then sat down on the step. By the time police got there a few minutes later, he had headed up the street.

It would have been easy for my neighbor to ignore it. But as he said, he had never seen the person around my house before so he waited to see what was going on. The attempt to scale the fence made it clear to him to call the cops.

A few years back I witnessed a bizarre hit-and-run along with five other people. A woman driving a small compact rammed the back of an SUV stopped at a traffic signal on East Highway 120 in front of Sizzler’s where Perko’s is today.

The driver jumped out of the car leaving the door open and motor running. She then started running down the street toward Lyon’s restaurant which is where El Pollo Loco is today. Several other people as well as myself, who were driving behind her, got out of their vehicles. The radio was blasting and a year-old girl strapped in a baby seat on the passenger side was crying. Someone called the police, I turned off the ignition.

When police arrive they talked to all the witnesses after finding the woman and cuffing her.

About two months later I got a subpoena to testify in what was then Manteca Justice Court. I arrived by 9 a.m. as instructed as did the arresting officer.

Several times a man - who I later found out, was the driver’s attorney - kept poking his head out of the courtroom door.

Finally just before noon, we were told we weren’t needed as a deal had been struck.

I asked the officer why they had us wait and he said they had issued subpoenas for six witnesses and I was the only one that showed up. Without the testimony of a witness, the police report that he would be able to testify to would not carry much weight. In essence, he told me the lawyer was hoping I’d get frustrated and leave so his client could skate.

By not getting involved - either in our neighborhoods or stepping up and doing our part in making sure the criminal justice system works - we are just making it easier for lawbreakers to function.

That is why something seemingly insignificant as attending a block party Tuesday evening in your neighborhood is a small but critical step toward helping police keep Manteca as safe as possible.

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