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Street crimes unit rolling up arrests, drug seizures

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POSTED April 28, 2012 1:22 a.m.

The stats speak for themselves.

Nearly 30 pounds of methamphetamine and 32 pounds of marijuana seized. Just under 250 arrests and 50 parolees sent back to prison for violating the terms of their release.

And it was all done in a year’s time with three Manteca Police Department officers and a sergeant overseeing their work – the street crimes unit using their collective knowledge to take dangerous drugs and people off the streets.

Welcome to Chief Nick Obligacion’s Manteca Police Department.

While most of the work of the specialized unit was carried out before the longtime local police officer took the top post on February 1, his administrative work – especially during a time when 12 positions were cut for budget reasons – helped put resources where they were needed most.

That track record was something that he was able to cite Thursday night when speaking to the Manteca Tea Party Patriots at Chez Shari – the second high-ranking city official that spoke to the group in the last month.

Keeping the public informed of what’s going on in their community, he said, is one of his main goals. And he is going to use modern technology found in today’s smartphones to keep people appraised real-time – using applications from and to map out the crimes that are occurring in the city limits.

Transparency in conducting the department’s business and informing residents, he said, helps both sides.

“The more information I can get to you, the easier our job is because you’re informed,” Obligacion said – using an Apple iPad to demonstrate the handy uses of both programs and the ease at which instantaneous crime maps that are used to take months to lay out can be pulled up in minutes. “It’s another way to communicate with the public and it’s easy to use.”

Even though specialized groups like the street crimes unit are responsible for tackling the underbelly of Manteca’s drug world, communication between the public and the police is still responsible for uncovering and rooting out crime.

Obligacion told the group of a massive professional marijuana grow that was uncovered earlier in the day that yielded more than 340 plants and $100,000 in light fixtures and equipment – a bust that all started with a neighbor that thought the once-a-week visits from people at the home was suspicious.

Busting everybody, however, is something that Obligacion says he knows can’t be done.

But sending a message to criminals by maintaining a heavy patrol presence – when the 12 positions were cut back they were taken from special units rather than patrol because, Obligacion said, that’s where policing starts – and pressing back at illegal activity sends a message and might get people to think twice before setting up shop in Manteca.

“We’re never going to have 10,000 officers on the streets – we simply don’t have the resources to do that,” he said. “What we do have is 68,000 sets of eyes that can keep an eye on their community.

“Ultimately we’re trying to push them out of our town. We’d like to put all of the bad guys in prison but that’s not going to happen. Crime is like running water – it’s going to take the path of least resistance and we want force somewhere other than onto our streets.”

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