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Efforts to reduce crime end up going down drain

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POSTED September 29, 2009 4:18 a.m.

Response time to violent crimes in progress isn’t expected to increase if the Manteca City Council ends up laying off 16 police officers in mid-October.

What will happen are efforts to target the most serious offenders responsible for the bulk of crime will go to the wayside. Plus if you call for police assistance and it isn’t a top priority call you may have to wait longer to have an officer respond.

Police Chief Dave Bricker has crafted a contingency plan should the Manteca Police Officers Association and the city not come to an agreement on compensation concessions as part of a plan to bridge $2.5 million of this year’s remaining deficit.

The plan calls for making sure front-line officers – those patrolling the streets – are kept at full force. In order to do that, though, he will need to decimate units such as the narcotics, detectives, and gang divisions. Those other units – coupled with aggressive streets policing – have been responsible for dropping the crime rate in the past two years after they were put in place thanks to Measure M funding from the half cent sales tax for public safety.

Bricker’s strategy banks on the worst-case scenario for the balance of this calendar year to be the loss  of 12 officers as it is anticipated that federal stimulus funds allocated specifically  for law enforcement will allow Manteca to hire back four of the officers.

The big question mark is what would up to seven additional police officers retirements do to response times and staffing should they occur over the next 10 months.

“It definitely will go down,” Brick said, emphasizing crimes where lives are threatened would still get an immediate response.

Staffing isn’t the only budget question mark for the Manteca Police Department. If the state goes forward with plans to start charging jurisdictions for using the Department of Justice Crime lab services, it will cost Manteca at least $132,000 this year based on the amount of work they sent to the lab in 2008. The state never charged before for processing blood splatters, DNA, or fingerprints as it was assumed local taxpayers were paying state taxes to cover the tab.

Now, however, the department is faced with paying for those services which is more than the cost of one officer.

It will force the department to hold on to evidence and then “gang it” when there appears to be more than one crime done by the same person. Such a policy would apply to property crimes. Violent crimes against individuals would get top priority.

Bricker said he understood the approach that City Manger Steve Pinkerton has been taking dealing with the city’s financial mess.

This wasn’t his doing, he inherited it,” Bricker noted in reference to former City Manager Bob Adams who stepped down by the mutual consent of the council.

Even though Bricker said he understands the city’s situation completely, his top priority is “to look out for my guys and make sure they have everything needed to do the job and do it safely.”

Unless some other arrangements are made, the Manteca Police Officers Association is on course to force the City Council to decide next month whether 16 officers will be laid off.

The MPOA membership has rejected the city’s request to renegotiate terms of their contract.  Those requests included giving up negotiated pay raises in 2010 and 2011 plus lose uniform allowances for the next two years as well as pay more into their retirement.

The MPOA equates this as a 14 percent pay cut on what the contract they inked with the city was supposed to guarantee them through the end of 2012. The four-year contract was made before the mortgage meltdown that worsened the economic slowdown and then drove down property tax and sales tax receipts which are the city’s two biggest sources of funding for the general fund that covers the cost of public safety and other functions such as streets and parks. Employee compensation accounts for close to 85 percent of the general fund’s expenditures.

Although each officer is impacted slightly different due to where they are on the salary schedule the typical out of pocket under the proposal – should they accept it – would come to about $100 a pay check  based on 24 pay periods a year plus the $1,000 once-a-year clothing allowance. That means a typical police officer would have their checks reduced $3,400 a year for the next two years. They also would be giving up future pay they don’t yet have – two back-to-back 4 percent cost of living increases.

Manteca Police last year handled:
•2,670 felonies including car theft, auto burglary, residnetial burglary, assault, commercial burglary, and rape.
•1,146 burglaries among those 2,670 felonies that would - should layoffs occur – get a slower response unless they involve a crime in progress.
•4,027 misdemeanors including thefts.
•2,173 miscellaneous offenses including narcotics, alcohol, domestic violence, forgery, fraud, and code enforcement.
•4.278 non-criminal reports.
•32,279 calls for service requests.
•911 accidents.
•10,649 citations.
•4,332 arrests.
•stolen property cases valued at $6.3 million of which $2.4 million was recovered.

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

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