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Challenging times prompt retooling of Neighborhood Watch group

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POSTED July 21, 2009 2:53 a.m.

Reduction in city services, a shrinking police force due to positions left unfilled, plus the early release of 1,000 convicted felons back to San Joaquin County is prompting Manteca to overhaul and re-energize the Neighborhood Watch program.


Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker said the program is being “re-energized” more as community watch groups much like a similar effort in San Jose.


Instead of just bringing neighborhoods together to keep an eye on crime, the groups will be extended into neighborhood sounding boards on a wide range of concerns from streets to parks.


The idea is not only to open the line of communications between the city and the neighborhood but to encourage residents to alert the city in a timely manner of concerns such as potholes and things such as vandalism to park irrigation systems that could go unnoticed for longer period due to the shrinking city workforce. Early detection usually means less costs repairing.


Streets are one area where the city is going to need full cooperation from residents.


Manteca’s street division is at the same staffing level that it was at in 1981 – which is nine workers - despite having 193 miles of streets today or almost double the level 28 years ago.


There are 15 positions authorized in the budget but the city has been leaving them vacant as people retired due to the state continuing to “borrow” state gas money meant for local street upkeep.


It underscores a trend that has been in place since the early 1990s of the state eroding local revenue sources because Sacramento can’t live within a budget. Since 1991, the state has taken upwards of $18 million from the city’s general fund and redevelopment agency. Now the state may take away even more gas tax as part of the pending deal to bridge the $26 billion state deficit.


As a result, earlier detection of potholes or cracks – and subsequent sealing of them by city crews – is essential to extend life of pavement.


Bricker hopes to have the new program ready to roll out by year’s end with Manteca Public Affairs Officer Rex Osborn likely to lead the charge.


The city currently has 200 Neighborhood Watch Groups in various stages of activity from dormant to being extremely involved. Information on Neighborhood Watch will be available at the community-wide National Night Out Party planned for Sunday, Aug. 2, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Library Park.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@manetcabuleltin.com


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