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Criminals stole property worth $16,138 every day in Manteca in 2011
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Every day in 2011 thieves in Manteca stole an average of $16,138 in property.

In four days’ time they wiped out what one average Manteca household grosses through income derived from work.

And by year’s end they had taken $5,890,608 in property that did not belong to them.

Of that, Manteca Police were able to recover $2,316,980 worth of stolen property or 39.3 percent of what was taken.

If those numbers caught your attention, Manteca Police chief Nick Obligacion has some tried and true things you can do to drastically reduce your chances of becoming a crime victim.

•Don’t leave you car unlocked with valuables in plain sight. For that matter, don’t leave anything in sight that appears to be valuable even in a locked vehicle.

• Close your garage doors.

•Don’t leave keys in the ignition or engines running unattended.

If everyone did just those three things hundreds of thousands of annual losses - if not over a million dollars - could be avoided.

“It always amazed me when I was on patrol and driving through neighborhoods to see the number of garage doors left open,” the police chief said.

It makes quick pickings for thieves as they pass by or else it is the equivalent of you helping criminals case your home so they know if hitting a house is worth the effort when you are away.

There are other ways, of course, to reduce crime exposure such as leaving lights on and such. But when it comes to simplicity playing big dividends it is tough to beat simply reducing the ease at which you allow criminals to access your property.

Auto burglary is the property crime you are most likely to be a victim of in Manteca. Last year there were 589 instances when items were stolen from vehicles. That was up 29.45 percent or 455 in 2010.

“People often park a car in front of their house and leave the windows down and the door unlocked for a minute and when they come back out they find something had been stolen from their car,” Obligacion said. “There even have been cases where a dome light was left on at night giving (thieves) a clear view of what is in a vehicle.”

Having the windows rolled up and doors locked isn’t much of a deterrent if you’ve left something that looks of value in clear view.

Police over the years have reported people having windows smashed that cost $200 or more to replace because a thief thought a box - that ended up being empty - contained values or that there was something valuable in a backpack. Windows have even been smashed for loose coins.

Residential burglaries are also on the upswing and come in at No. 2 on the property crime list. There were 320 last year up 35.59 percent when Manteca had 236 residential burglaries.

Obligacion noted that neighbors watching out for each other and immediately calling police if something looks suspicious is the most effective way to put the pressure on criminals.

It plays a big role in helping police catch criminals in the act and making arrests.

“We could have a hundred officers on the street but they can’t be everywhere,” the police said. “There are 68,000 people in Manteca who can be 68,000 pairs of eyes for us.”

Rounding out the Top 3 for property crimes is vehicle thefts with 270 stolen in 2011. It was up 13.45 percent from 238 stolen vehicles in 2010 but significantly down from the peak year in 2005 when 798 vehicles were stolen.

In 2005, police reports showed that more than one out of every four vehicles taken had either had the engine left running and the vehicles unattended or the keys had been left in the ignition.

Police education helped cut down on the number of such thefts. Even so, a good number of vehicles that were taken in 2011 had either the engine running or the keys in the ignition.

Obligacion noted that most crime involves criminals taking advantage of “opportunities” that people inadvertently create.