An armed robber walks into a downtown Manteca bank.
Unbeknownst to the criminal, a teller activates a camera system that instantly sends real-time footage of the crime as it is unfolding to the Manteca Police dispatch center.
Dispatchers either give the responding officers clear descriptions of what is going on and/or the live feed is sent to in-vehicle computer screens. Officers have images of what the robber looks like, what he is wearing, and the type of weapon they may have.
Should the robber depart the bank before officers arrive, street cameras at key intersections give police the ability to track the suspects as they try to flee.
If that sounds pie-in-the-sky consider this: Ripon Police have had such as camera system in place that has allowed them on at least two occasions to arrest bank robbers within minutes — once before they reached Highway 99 and once after they had gotten onto the freeway,
Manteca Police Chief Jodie Estarziau is hoping to develop support for cameras not only in a bid to enhance the safety of the public and officers but to also to stay on top of chronic issues more effectively as well as give Manteca a “reputation.”
“Word gets around,’ Estarziau said. “Ripon’s ability to track and monitor crime (from dispatch centers and in patrol cars) is an effective deterrent.”
Since the days when Dave Bricker was police chief, law enforcement in Manteca has been trying to get a surveillance camera system in place.
The original starting points nearly 10 years ago was for Southside Park and Library Park. Southside was picked in a bid to keep gang activity at bay after the police, city, and community made a concerted and successful effort to get control back of the park southwest of downtown.
Cameras were pushed for Library Park in a bid to break the cyclical issues that have plagued what is essentially Manteca’s town plaza over the years whether it is illegal drug sales or homeless and others breaking park rules that make use of the park by law-abiding citizens and families inviting.
Several times previous councils have bought into the idea of surveillance cameras. Each time, however, problems such as data storage have derailed efforts to move forward.
Estarziau believes surveillance cameras should be given another look given technology has changed and new storage solutions have been developed in recent years.
Besides cameras at police headquarters, Manteca does have one surveillance camera. It’s at the skate park and has been in place for close to 15 years.
It was installed after problems started developing almost immediately at the skate park that the city located away from streets along the Tidewater Bikeway northwest of Center Street. Issues ranged from skaters being intimidated and drug sales to threats made to those passing on the Tidewater.
Once the camera was installed it was a different story. In one incident where youth were being threatened with a knife, the video feed allowed dispatchers to advise responding officers who had a weapon and where he had hidden the knife in his clothing.
After that and several other incidents police were able to quell, issues essentially went away at the skate park.
A camera system at Library Park could have the same effect.
Several months ago Estarziau ordered an undercover operation aimed at suspected drug deals taking place in Library Park. The effort was successful. With real time video feed dispatchers could monitor the park feed for suspicious activity or refer to it if a call comes in about possible drug sales. The police would have footage and a deception of suspects significantly raising the chances of a police response resulting in an effective conclusion through an arrest or issuance of a citation.