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Help keep guns out of hands of gang members
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Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion wants to make one thing clear: Stolen guns are giving gangs the means to conduct drive-by shootings.

“Gang members don’t walk into Bass Pro or Big Five (Sporting Goods) and buy guns,” Obligacion said.

That’s why he’s asking for the public help in helping to de-escalate gang gun violence in Manteca.

Obligacion made it clear he isn’t implying that law-abiding citizens that have their guns stolen are to blame for the rash of drive-by shootings such as the recent four over eight days that included two shots fired into a crowded restaurant on Cinco de Mayo that narrowly missed patrons.

But he is stressing that citizens who secure their weapons in a device that can’t be easily lifted or removed can go a long way towards reducing the firepower of gangs.

“I support the 2nd Amendment,” Obligacion said.

Manteca Police since July 1 have taken 36 stolen weapons off the streets that they have seized from gang members and other criminals. The gun recovered in the drive-by shooting at Library Park on Saturday, April 28, was among the stolen weapons.

Obligacion said he understands that some people would love to have the police knock down the doors of all suspected gang members, lock them up, and search their homes for guns and seize them.

“They (gang members) don’t play by the rules,” Obligacion said. “We (the police) play by the rules.”

As such Obligacion said securing weapons you own legally can help reduce crime just as much as locking your front door or not leaving valuables visible inside your vehicle.

The chief is also hoping that more people take note of unusual behavior and then check in the newspaper to see if it might be helpful to police.

Obligacion said those who commit drive-by shootings don’t go the speed limit when fleeing. For example, there had to be motorists on West Yosemite Avenue the evening of the drive-by at Las Casuelas Mexican restaurant that had to be passed by a car at a high rate of speed. If law-abiding citizens take note of such things and then see reports of a crime they could provide the key clues to help police catch the responsible party.

“We don’t want to encourage vigilantes,” Obligacion said. “But being the eyes and ears of the police can help a lot.”

In the case of the restaurant drive-by the color and make of car would have been a big help for investigating officers.

The chief described three of the four drive-bys as random shootings.

“We could have had 20 officers on duty and that wouldn’t have prevented the drive-by shooting,” Obligacion said.

To underscore his point, Obligacion noted rarely do officers come across crimes in progress. He noted that while in the police academy he would often think about coming across an armed robbery and stopping it but hadn’t had the opportunity in 24 years in law enforcement.. The only such incident he can recall recently in Manteca was when officer Ian Osborn happened to be driving by the 7-Eleven on East Yosemite Avenue several years ago and saw a robbery in progress. Osborn eventually apprehended the culprits.

The police chief said the number of sworn officers is at 59 with the city’s population now surpassing 69,000 residents. Even so, he stressed that the number of officers on the street is the same today as it was a number of years ago due to reassignment of personnel from specialty enforcement units such as traffic

“The community and police department need to be one,” Obligacion said in reference to having a working relationship to combat crime through prevention efforts as well as reporting unusual behavior.

Obligacion said small tips often are the catalyst to build cases that get gang members “off the street for a long time.”