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Smile at the camera, bad boys

Remote system may keep eye on Southside, Library parks

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Smile at the camera, bad boys

Library and Southside parks could be monitored from the Manteca Police Department dispatch center via security camera.

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POSTED December 15, 2008 3:37 a.m.
A day may come in 2009 when folks trying to enjoy Library Park or Southside Park don’t have to call police when there is illegal activity in either place.
That’s because law enforcement will be watching 24/7 via the Manteca Police Department dispatch center.
The City Council tonight could take another step toward cobbling together the $60,000 needed to place surveillance cameras in the two Central Manteca parks when they decide how to spend a $105,956 grant from the state.
Known as the Citizen’s Option for Public Safety (COPS) Supplemental Law Enforcement Funding, the money is being proposed to replace two Manteca patrol units plus add to the $20,000 already set aside from federal pass through funds known as the Community Development Block Grant
The cameras would be placed high enough and with adequate protection to allow dispatchers to monitor the park unimpeded from police headquarters.
The cameras are expected to help alert police of trouble as well as enhancing the prosecution of individuals who are arrested while being monitored via the cameras.
Southside Park is located just south of downtown at Oak and Park streets. There have been several gang-related incidents in the past year. Second on his list is Library Park that a previous police department a memo noted — the park “continues to have issues with alcoholic consumption, individuals ‘camping’ in and around the park and library.”
A gang officer could go into dispatch and scan all the parks in 10 minutes that would take him an hour or so to drive around town to check.
The surveillance cameras in parks is an outgrowth of the successful use of three remote cameras to help police the Manteca skate park that is difficult to keep tabs on due to its remote location along the Tidewater Bikeway and away from Center Street.
Problems at the skate park that ran the gamut from weapons being displayed, flashing, graffiti and general bullying have been reduced to a small fraction of what they were prior to the cameras being put in place. The city feeds one image directly to the City of Manteca website so the general public can see what’s going on at the skate park. That image, along with those from two other cameras that can be remotely panned and zoomed in is monitored at the dispatch center.
The end result is quicker detection of problems and the ability to give officers en route detailed and up to date information as viewed by the dispatcher.
The equipment — usually placed high on telephone poles or light standards with clear shots of the area being watched — is durable enough to withstand weather and abuse.
The cameras would be a tool to augment the effectiveness of the city’s 85 sworn police officers. They would also address growing concerns that parks are becoming more susceptible to criminal activity unless police step up patrols.
Targeted patrols will still be done but police have pointed out such a system would effectively allow the department to not only check parks more frequently for trouble but direct responding officers to the troublemakers.
It is also keeping with the police department’s long-held contention that the more eyes and ears helping them do their job through Neighborhood Watch Groups and alert individual citizens, the more effective they can be fighting crime.
In this case, they would be eyes that never sleep. Cameras would be monitored 24/7 at the dispatch center.
Rounding out the top five priority park list for security cameras as noted in a memo earlier this year are Baccelleri Park immediately east of Southside Park, Hidlebrand Park on Fir Street on the east side of the central district and Lincoln Park on Powers Avenue.
The City Council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
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