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Manteca crime continues to drop
Felonies dip 11%, overtime down $400,000
Police Chief Dave Bricker credits Manteca’s rank-and-file police personnel working more effectively through the deployment of manpower to the reduction in crime in tight fiscal times. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Felony crimes dropped almost 11 percent in Manteca during March.

There were 203 Part One Crime reports – the most serious crimes as identified by the FBI – in March of this year compared to 228 in March of 2008.

The drop in various categories of felonies from March 2008 to March 2009 is as follows:

•Residential burglaries down 13.04 percent from 23 to 20.

•Auto burglary down 48.1 percent from 79 to 41.

•Commercial burglary down 56.52 percent from 23 to 10.

•Aggravated assault down 57.14 percent from 7 to 3.

Police Chief Dave Bricker credited the rank-and-file from patrolmen to detectives with stepping up and delivering the best possible protection for Manteca’s residents given the financial constraints they are operating under.

Fourteen positions are vacant due to the budget crisis including six sworn positions – four patrol officers, a lieutenant and a sergeant. The department is authorized 83 sworn officers but only have 76 positions filled.

In addition, 10 support positions including four community service officers are critical to reducing the day-to-day workloads of patrol officers are vacant. It is creating delays for lower priority crime reporting although the workload has been helped somewhat by citizens reporting low-grade property crimson-line.

“There is no such thing as a lower priority if you are crime victim,” Bricker said, adding the department is simply putting its resources to make sure they have the more pressing calls such as burglaries in progress, domestic violence and in-progress crimes answered in a timely manner.

Bricker emphasized that on-line reports are seen and responded to by officers.

Bricker said the department has been able to position itself by shifting personnel around to make sure as many officers as possible are on the street. The department has six K9 officers, four gang unit officers, and six narcotics officers.

Unlike Stockton which is laying off 50 officers due to the budget crisis, Manteca is in fairly good shape thanks in a large part to language in the Measure M public safety tax measure that can’t let general fund spending on law enforcement slip below the percentage in place at the time the voters approved the half cent sales tax.

“We’re pretty close to the point in staffing that we are near the minimum Measure M called for,” Bricker noted.

Bricker also credits City Manager Steve Pinkerton – who assessed the severity of the pending budget deficit within weeks of being hired – with giving the department the time to prepare for tight budget times by leaving positions vacant when people retired or departed for other jobs.

Bricker stressed the effectiveness and dedication of officers goes beyond simply keeping pressure on the bad guys.

“They have made a concerted effort to work on cutting overtime,” Bricker said. “They understand it could mean a job of a fellow officer.”

The new protocol is for officers to assess whether the case they are preparing is a report on a crime in progress or there is a strong chance of catching someone if it is completed as quickly as possible or if it is something they can put their pen down and come back to (the next day they are on duty),” Bricker said.

That alone has shaved $400,000 off the police budget meaning they are likely to end the year with just $800,000 in overtime. Much of the overtime is tough to control due to judges scheduling court appearances when officers may be off, an active top priority crime that happens near the end of their shift, and if there is a manpower issue due to illness, a call back for a major crime in progress, or a major event requiring police staffing.

Overall, felonies are down 10.96 percent from March 2008 to March 2009 while misdemeanor offenses went from 404 to 334 for a 17.33 percent drop.

The felonies that did increase from March to March were:

•Robbery up 75 percent from 4 to 7.

•Other burglary up 50 percent from 2 to 3.

•Vehicle theft up 10.34 percent from 39 to 32.

•Other felonies up 45 percent from 40 to 58.