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Gang unit is hitting the streets
First-day back in business for 4-man unit is Thursday
Manteca Police Departments gang unit will be up and running Thursday. Rose Parish, left, thanks then Gang Task Force Officer Jason Hensley for a presentation in 2009 at Fellowship Baptist Church prior to the gang unit being disbanded. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca Police’s four-man gang suppression unit will be back in business Thursday.

Police Chief Nick Obligacion delivering on his promise for a quick action once funding was authorized told the City Council Tuesday night that the unit would be up and running July 5. The City Council approved funding just six days ago.

 The four officers - three detectives and a supervising sergeant - will come from the ranks of Manteca’s existing force. That means seasoned officers familiar with Manteca gangs are being put in place.

Obligacion said the officers’ positions will be “back-filled” from a list of already screened candidates meaning a boost in actual police manpower could occur within weeks.

The gang unit was merged with the drug unit to form a streets crime unit in November of 2009 after the city was forced to release 12 officers due to financial concerns. That strategy meant that the number of patrol officers to answer emergency calls was left unchanged.

At the time, officials said they had no choice but to make sure there were adequate officers on the streets to handle emergencies and crime calls. In doing so, concentrated efforts targeting the worst criminals - in this case gang members - went to the wayside out of necessity.

The gang unit previously was credited with leading the charge to put a lid on surging gang violence. The move to resurrect the gang unit is in direct response to escalating gang violence in Manteca.

Obligacion has indicated a reconstituted gang unit would be committed to a number of short- and long-term goals including:

• Identifying and prosecuting offenders.

• Introduction of the gang unit to area gangs.

• Identify new gang members and update current files.

• Develop a working relationship with outside agencies.

• Provide ongoing gang training for unit members.

• Development of informants.

• Establish a Top 10 list of the most active and dangerous gang members.

• Speaking in schools, teaching children about the danger sofa gangs.

• Utilizing community programs to help curb gang violence. such groups include but aren’t limited to Neighborhood Watch groups, church groups, PTAs, and service clubs.

The documentation of new gang members and updating current files is a critical element in getting gang members once they are arrested off the streets for long periods of time. Documented gang members face automatic enhanced sentencing once they are convicted under California law.

A prime example was a 20-something gang member back five years ago who flagged down a taxi cab and did a drove-by shooting where no one was hit.

After he was convicted, he received a 20-year prison sentence despite it being his first offense and no one being hurt. If he had not been documented, the most he could have received was several years in prison - if that.

The additional police staffing is being covered for at least four years by tapping into the $8.1 Public Safety Endowment fund set up by builders Pulte Homes and Atherton Homes who contributed $8,000 for every house they built.