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Lack of police presence prompts Watch formation

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POSTED September 18, 2012 1:24 a.m.

One Manteca man who is admittedly upset with what he contends is a lack of police presence in his neighborhood is planning to organize a Neighborhood Watch with others living in his subdivision south of the Highway 120 Bypass.

Jason Craig who lives in the 1600 block of Luna Bella Avenue – between Woodward Avenue and Atherton Drive – complained that there have been too many crimes occurring on his block since he moved there in March of 2010 when someone attempted to enter through the side door of his garage.  Shortly after that there was another attempt at entry in the neighborhood when a nearby resident had his front door all but kicked in by intruders.

Eight months later a new four-wheel-drive pickup truck was broken into and burglarized and vandalized, he said, adding to the numbers that he has seen reported throughout the community.

Craig, a programmer in the San Jose area, said it seems to him that police have been ignoring homeowners south of the 120 Bypass.  He said the closest he came to seeing a police officer was a young male records clerk in the department’s front office.  He said the police department requires many crime reports to be made on line rather than sending an officer to investigate at the scene. He added that he has never seen a police car drive by his home in the last two and a half years.

The department encourages on-line reporting of non-emergency crimes. Under procedures instituted a few years back when manpower issues due to budget cutbacks surfaced, the department shifted personnel around from special units to keep the number of patrol officers on the street constant. However, the city’s population has grown by nearly 4,000 over the past five years. The council in June added back four positions to re-establish a gang unit to combat an upswing in gang violence.

The department will still dispatch an officer to lower priority calls such as property crimes but it may take a number of hours due to a backlog of calls and the need to address pressing priorities first such as domestic violence and felonies in progress.

The department has command personnel who check all on-line reports that are also acknowledged. The data from on-line reports also helps the department shift patrol coverage when possible to cover problem areas.

Craig said he was preparing a letter to send to all of his neighbors asking them to join him in an organizational meeting to establish a Neighborhood Watch program, saying community crime seems to be getting worse in Manteca.

Anyone with “tips” on crime happening in Craig’s neighborhood or anywhere else in the greater Manteca community may leave a message on police reporter Glenn Kahl’s desk telephone line at 249-3539 to give the Bulletin a better insight into what is happening on a day-to-day basis.

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