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Serious felonies up 12.8% in 2011
Police chief: You can help reduce crime rate

Just how safe is Manteca when it comes to crime?

By one yardstick - a comparison of trends over five years - there was less serious crime in Manteca in 2011 than there was in 2007 with two glaring exceptions - homicides and residential burglaries.

Last year was particularly deadly in Manteca with five homicides with all but one being where the victim knew the suspect. In 2007 there was only one homicide in Manteca. Residential burglaries were at 320 last year compared to 232 in 2007.

Police Chief Nick Obligacion points out that while Manteca is a “fairly safe city” you don’t feel that way if you are victim of crime.

“One crime is one too many,” Obligacion said.

Five-year trends from 2007 to 2011 show that annual:

• rapes are down from 27 to 12.

• auto burglaries are down 713 to 589.

• vehicle thefts are down 374 to 270.

• grand thefts are down 289 to 137

• arsons are down 26 to 19.

Overall, serious felonies were up 12.8 percent in 2011 compared to 2010 going from 1,875 incidents to 2,115.

In month-to-month comparisons between January of 2011 and January 2012 overall felonies are down 1.79 percent and total burglaries are down 2.3% But three categories are on the rise. In the month-to-month comparisons for January commercial burglary has gone from 3 to 13, residential burglary 14 to 24, and vehicle theft from 25 to 34.

Obligacion credits officers for finding ways to be more efficient so they can have more patrol time as helping either reduce crime in many categories or keep a lid on it despite population growth and the cutback of 12 officers in late 2009 due to budget constraints.

Manteca has added 3,000 residents since losing 12 sworn officers. There hasn’t been an upswing in crime to match the reduction in force due to officers finding ways to maximize their presence on the streets. Manteca currently has 58 sworn officers. Prior to the budget crisis, the department was authorized 72 positions.

The chief noted if he had additional officers they would allow targeted enforcement efforts above and beyond what is now going on. Obligacion points out that officers still employ a strategy that keeps tabs on the criminal that commit the most crimes. In doing so, successful arrests have a bigger impact and reduces the chances that citizen will be victims of crime.

Obligacion’s philosophy toward making Manteca a safer community and a place less pleasant for criminals centers around the law abiding among the city’s 68,000 residents.

“There is 68,000 potential pairs of eyes out there to help police officers do their jobs,” Obligacion said.

The chief rattled off a list of arrests made possible while crimes were essentially in progress because people noticed something suspicious and called the police.

Obligacion understands citizens sometimes get frustrated when they don’t immediately see an officer or it may take weeks or months to bust a suspected drug house.

In some cases, officers are tied up on higher priority calls or they may actually be responding as in the case of three burglary suspects police caught with $100,000 worth of stolen property. Instead of going to where the suspected burglary had taken place they instead used their experience to make an educated guess as to which way they’d try to flee Manteca.

And in the case of some suspicious activity, the police may actually be doing their job when it looks like they aren’t.

Obligacion noted a lot of traffic at all hours is one possible sign of a drug house. First, the police may not be aware of such a situation unless they are alerted by citizens. That in itself, though, doesn’t justify walking up and knocking on the door.

“We are limited by law what we can do,” Obligacion said.

“We may have some of our undercover guys into the neighborhood and (citizens) don’t realize it because the officers don’t look any better than the bad guys,” Obligacion said of their appearance.

Sometimes they make stops away from the suspected house and out of sight of neighbors. Or they may take what seems like a long time because they are trying to “catch bigger fish” so arrests that are made ultimately will have an even bigger impact.

As to concerns that suspected criminals who are arrested seem to be quickly released or don’t receive what many would believe to be sufficient jail time once convicted, Obligacion said the police concentrate on their portion of the system of law and order.

“We work to keep the pressure on (the criminal element).” Obligacion said. “Criminals are like electricity. They take the path of least resistance.”

And when there are 68,000 eyes helping police counter crime in Manteca, Obligacion believes Manteca’s reputation as a place that’s not too friendly for criminals to operate will continue to grow.