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Manteca gang unit making dent in crime

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POSTED January 20, 2013 11:52 p.m.

The reinstatement of Manteca Police’s four officer gang unit is paying off.

 Back in June, gang violence - which is reflected in most of the city’s aggravated assaults - was up almost 40 percent.

Aggravated assaults by the end of November were trending just 10 percent over the previous year with 99 for the first 11 months of 2012 compared to 90 for the same period in the previous year.

Manteca law enforcement is also making a dent in the burglary rate. Burglaries were down 10.63 percent in the first 11 months of last year compared to the same period in 2011 going from 1,016 to 908.

A large number of burglaries are also tied to gang activity.

Overall, felonies are up 4.92 percent through the end of November.

Among the biggest gains were vehicle thefts that spiked 49.15 percent going from 236 to 352.

The four gang unit officers - three detectives and a supervising sergeant - came from the ranks of Manteca’s existing force. That means seasoned officers familiar with Manteca gangs were put in place.

Those four positions were filled with new officers giving the Manteca department a net gain of four officers.

The gang unit was merged with the drug unit to form a streets crime unit in November of 2009 after the city was forced to release 12 officers due to financial concerns. That strategy meant that the number of patrol officers to answer emergency calls was left unchanged.

At the time, officials said they had no choice but to make sure there were adequate officers on the streets to handle emergencies and crime calls. In doing so, concentrated efforts targeting the worst criminals - in this case gang members - went to the wayside out of necessity.

The gang unit previously was credited with leading the charge to put a lid on surging gang violence. The move to resurrect the gang unit was in direct response to escalating gang violence in Manteca.

Police Chief Nick Obligacion in July indicated the reconstituted gang unit would be committed to a number of short- and long-term goals including:

• Identifying and prosecuting offenders.

• Introduction of the gang unit to area gangs.

• Identify new gang members and update current files.

• Developing a working relationship with outside agencies.

• Providing ongoing gang training for unit members.

• Development of informants.

• Establish a Top 10 list of the most active and dangerous gang members.

• Speaking in schools, teaching children about the danger sofa gangs.

• Utilizing community programs to help curb gang violence. Such groups include but aren’t limited to Neighborhood Watch groups, church groups, PTAs, and service clubs.

The documentation of new gang members and updating current files is a critical element in getting gang members once they are arrested off the streets for long periods of time. Documented gang members face automatic enhanced sentencing once they are convicted under California law.

A prime example was a 20-something gang member back six years ago who flagged down a taxi cab and did a drove-by shooting where no one was hit.

After he was convicted, he received a 20-year prison sentence despite it being his first offense and no one being hurt. If he had not been documented, the most he could have received was several years in prison - if that.

The additional police staffing is being covered for at least four years by tapping into the $8.1 million Public Safety Endowment fund set up by builders Pulte Homes and Atherton Homes who contributed $8,000 for every house they built.

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