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Arrest costs: Fluid dynamics
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Last year the Manteca Police Department made 2,779 arrests. 

This year, through September, police have already arrested 1,776 people. 

Some of those were for serious felonies and others were for misdemeanors that didn’t even result in a trip to the San Joaquin County Jail. Others were for a trip to the “drunk tank” where people sober up before being released. 

It’s difficult to calculate the cost of an arrest – it’s a fluid situation with lots of factors and no concrete formula for determining it. I’m sure it’s possible to sit down with the Manteca police budget and determine how much is spent and how many people were arrested and make a distinguished determination at the difference between the two using common sense and a keen eye for municipal budgets. 

But how do you calculate the handoff to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department? Obviously they have to keep to a budget as well, but it’s another hoop to jump through in determining what it costs to actually arrest and process somebody for a crime – whatever that infraction may be. 

If you look online you can find dozens – hundreds even – of studies that’ll break down the cost of incarcerating somebody in America. You’ll find stories about how people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona have come up with the perfect way to save taxpayers their hard-earned money – by keeping county jail inmates in WWII surplus tents and making them wear pink underwear and shackles. They also eat slop.

That, however, is somewhat of an anomaly. That would never fly in dark blue California where county jails are already bursting at the seams. And the turnover rate is so high in county jails right now that finding the statistics to determine the cost of temporary incarceration – and the metrics to do it – would take a team of researchers. 

“You do see some of the same faces. You see the same people and it’s one of those things that if we come to a call and we know your name it’s probably not a very good sign,” said a local police officer that asked not to be identified. “It’s like, ‘Come on – grab your jacket.’ It’s so routine and it takes up so much of our time. I don’t know how much it costs, but it takes us away from patrolling the neighborhoods we need to patrol, and that’s a whole different cost altogether.”


To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.