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Crime down 20.5% since 2005
4,314 more residents, 514 less serious crimes
A Manteca Police officer does a visual safety check for his patrol vehicle before starting his shift. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Manteca’s economy was on a roll in 2005 and so were criminals.

The city had 61,809 residents, 711 auto burglaries, 161 commercial burglaries, 671 vehicle thefts, and 126 aggravated assaults.

Fast forward to 2008 as The Great Recession accelerates Manteca’s unemployment toward a record 15 percent.

The city had 66,123 residents, 698 auto burglaries, 139 commercial burglaries, 311 vehicle thefts, and 745 aggravated assaults.

There were 514 less Part I crimes – felonies ranging from homicide, rape, burglaries, and assault that the FBI uses to determine a city’s crime rate – in 2008 than 2005 despite having 4,314 more residents. There were 40.72 Part I crimes per 1,000 residents in Manteca in 2005 compared to 30.29 in 2008.

And if the 2009 trends through September after crime statistics are compiled for the last three months of last year hold, the crime rate will drop even further. The year-to-year stats confirm what Manteca has been tracking in month-to-month reports issued to the public – crime is dropping in Manteca.

Conventional wisdom would have crime rates going up as the population increases and the unemployment rate shoots upward. So what happened?

“A little bit of it has to do with foreclosures,” Police Chief Dave Bricker noted.

He’s referring to a small number among those caught up in foreclosures who were families from East Bay crime-riddled neighborhoods that took advantage of liar loans to secure houses in Manteca and other valley towns and brought their illegal habits with them.

The real credit, though, goes to a switch in department goals over the past several years.

Instead of judging officers on numbers such as how many arrests they may make a week, Bricker and the command team switched to a strategy that was “result based.”

“We don’t care if an officer just makes one arrest a week as long as it is the right arrest,” Bricker said.

He is referring to habitual and/or career criminals who perhaps numbered several dozen but were responsible for 80 percent of the crime in Manteca.

Officers have specifically targeted such individuals and have worked hard to build cases against them. As a result, many of them are off the streets.

“A lot of them have been taken off the street and are in prison thanks to good police work,” Bricker said.
The efforts of the past four years, though, may be undermined by the new state rules that went into effect Monday that made many released felons from state prison eligible for non-revocable probation. They also do not have to report to a parole officer to say where they are living.

Manteca Police, unlike some cities, keeps tight tabs on paroled felons. When crimes happen in a particular area in bunches such as residential burglaries or auto theft they will monitor parolees closer and make unexpected checks. They sometimes catch them on technical violations – such as an incorrect address or association with other known felons. That would send them back to state prison for 12 months and more often than not the frequency of that crime in the neighborhood would drop.

That will no longer happen.

In addition the early release of non-violent felons from prison to save state money – they’re typically convicted for repeat felonies such as burglary or auto theft. Compounding the problem is Manteca’s high 15 percent unemployment rate making it hard for those without criminal records to secure jobs.

Other three-year trends from the Manteca Police Department from 2005 to 2008 show that:

•Manteca Police response to priority one calls that include homicide, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, rape, aggravated assault, fights with weapons, in progress auto theft, and in progress incidents involving violence met the target of three minutes or less 96.7 percent of the time in 2005 to 97.0 percent in 2008.

•Manteca Police response to priority two calls that include brandishing weapons, prowlers, domestic battery, family fights, and verified alarms to meet the target of 30 minutes or less 98.8 percent of the time in 2005 to 98.6 percent in 2008.

•Manteca Police response to priority three calls that include public nuisances, grand or petty theft, trespassing, stolen vehicles, public intoxication, and all other cold calls for request for services met the 60-minute or less target 97.8 percent of the time in both 2005 and 2008.

•Clearance rates for residential burglary dropped from 11 percent in 2005 to 7 percent in 2008.

•Clearance rates for auto burglary dropped from 9 percent in 2005 to 2 percent in 2008.

•Clearance rates for vehicle theft dropped from 12 percent in 2005 to 7 percent in 2008.

•Clearance rates for commercial burglary dropped from 25 percent in 2005 to 22 percent in 2008.

•Clearance rates for robbery dropped from 44 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2008.