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More video surveillance in future?

Police chief sees it as effective crime fighting tool

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More video surveillance in future?

One of the cameras that now keeps an eye on the Manteca skate park.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED December 21, 2008 1:16 a.m.
A large number of Manteca’s cops in the future will work 24-hour shifts.
They won’t stray from their beats, as they’ll keep a close eye on everything going on about them.
And instead of shooting bullets, they’ll be shooting images.
“In the future you are going to see more surveillance cameras,” Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker said. “It’s about stretching the effectiveness of manpower.”
It costs about $120,000 a year to put a police officer on the streets when you tabulate wages, fringe benefits and operational costs. Law enforcement accounts for 40.3 cents of every general fund dollar spent in Manteca. Bricker believes that as the city grows it will become more imperative in terms of cost as well as effectiveness to put more and more cameras in place.
“There are 12 major access points to the city,” Bricker said in reference to Manteca being dissected by two major freeways as well as several major surface streets.
If Bricker had his druthers, they’d be surveillance cameras at each of those 12 major access points feeding images easily monitored back at the Manteca Police Department dispatch center.
You basically couldn’t do a crime in Manteca and exit the city without passing one of those points making it easy to catch responsible parties.
It can go even a step further. License plate scanners at the same locations would instantly alert police if a car reported stolen is entering the city. People driving stolen cars typically commit other crimes such as armed robbery, residential burglaries, shoplifting, and vehicle theft and burglary.
That is why Poag & McEwen has agreed to install license plate scanners at the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley.
As for cameras at key intersections, Bricker points to the success Ripon has had.
Dispatchers can quickly take note of problems or — if they are alerted of an incident — scan monitors looking for suspect vehicles. In several instances, dispatchers in Ripon have helped guide officers directly to criminals while telling them where they have weapons hidden. The same is true of the cameras that have been installed at the Manteca Skate Park for more than three years. The cameras — monitored at Manteca’s police dispatch — are credited with reducing crime and other problems at the fairly isolated skate park. Police have also had incidents where dispatchers have monitored suspects at the skate park using the cameras as they approached them and were able to tell them where they saw the suspect place a knife on his person.
The biggest roadblock now is the cost. Two camera systems going in at Library Park and Southside Park in the coming year costs about $60,000. Besides being reliable, they must be out of harm’s way and provide clear signals 24/7.
“A dispatcher can scan numerous locations in seconds,” Bricker said. “It’s a great crime fighting tool. You can also flip on a switch and record the information for later use as evidence.”
The same is true of red light cameras going up in 2009. They will provide a clear look at street traffic at six of the busiest intersections in Manteca.
Bricker is confident the price of video surveillance cameras will drop as the technology becomes more prevalent.
As for questions about privacy, Bricker noted there is no expectation on a public street or in a public venue. The courts have determined that such surveillance systems pass constitutional muster.

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