You can’t get live farther north and east in Manteca than on Pin Oak Lane.
It’s a K&B neighborhood dubbed Diamond Oaks that was built in the mid-1990s north of Louise Avenue and east of Cottage Avenue.
Pin Oak Lane runs two blocks — if you include Pin Oak Court — between Pestana Avenue and Cherry Oak Lane. It is in what is aptly called a pocket neighborhood that is surrounded on all three sides by agriculture. While six streets are stubbed for future extensions including Pestana northward, there are no plans on the horizon for new subdivisions.
From 2013 through early November of 2017, there were only three crimes on the street — an auto burglary and two assaults — according to the Manteca Police Department crime map.
But then things started to change in mid-November. There was a vehicle theft on Pin Oak. Another vehicle stolen from the county was left on the street. Another vehicle was broken into.
One neighbor saw someone trying to break into the back of a cluster mailbox and scared the culprit off when he ran screaming at him. Neighbors started noticing strange vehicles in the neighborhood including one spotted barely moving along with the driver extending out the window a smartphone as if he were making a video for the purpose of casing homes. Packages have been swiped from porches. They have come across evidence of drug use at the park.
Neighbors decided to act. They approached the Manteca Police Department and got help forming a Neighborhood Watch group. And as they became more vigilant they started noticing other questionable activity in the general area such as non-neighborhood residents gathering under darkness in the middle of Diamond Oaks Park where there is no lighting.
On Tuesday, they went before the City Council asking for the city help to turn back what they see is a growing tide of crime.
Carol Collini, who moved to the neighborhood from Los Angeles, said she felt safe the first 1½ years living in the neighborhood. She was pleasantly surprised to have police officers wave at her as she traveled around Manteca. But the events of the last three months has her worried that what appeals to her about the neighborhood and Manteca could be lost.
So on Tuesday, she made it clear what she wanted.
“I want my Manteca back,” Collini told the council.
Prior to her comments, neighbor Kelly Hazen asked a question that many in Manteca have been asking: “How many officers does Manteca have on duty between 2 and 6 a.m.?”
While she was directed to seek answers to that question from Police Chief Jodie Estarziau after the meeting, it underscores the concern a growing number of residents that Manteca’s blue line could be a little too thin in the early morning hours that tend to be the optimum time for vehicle thefts, auto burglaries, and thefts from yards.
The department has 65 sworn-police officer positions with a population of 78,000. Manteca had 73 police officers and 30 support personnel serving a population of 65,076 residents in 2007. Most cities shoot for a staffing of 1 police officer per 1,000 residents. Under that standard, Manteca would have 13 more officers than they now do.
Hazen asked for more police presence, noting she had only seen one officer in their neighborhood during the past 3 months and that was after a car was reported stolen.
The council during their comment period made suggestions on how the city could augment officers without busting the bank.
Councilman Gary Singh favors looking into solar powered lights to place into parks such as Diamond Oaks to illuminate hiding areas such as the city did a few years back for security at the Spreckels Park BMX track park. Singh noted it eliminates the cost of extending buried electrical lines to power the light.
Councilman Mike Morowit said he’d like to see more cameras deployed around Manteca in potential problem spots such as parks. He noted wireless technology and solar power have made it more economically feasible while at the same time higher resolution cameras that have come down in cost provide images that police can use to identify and pursue culprits.
The other suggestion Morowit had was extremely low tech — using a phone to alert police whenever they see someone hanging around the park after they are closed at 10 p.m. He noted once the park closes it is illegal to be there justifying a police response.
Chief Estarziau following the meeting noted the council suggestions along with neighbors forming the watch group and working closer with police is exactly what is needed.
A similar holistic approach — vigilant citizens working with police, targeted enforcement, security cameras, and passive improvements such as adding wrought iron fencing to secure the library courtyard — is what has allowed the city to turn around Library Park and Wilson Park in downtown Manteca.
In addition, Manteca has been able to hire two officers and get them on the streets in the past few weeks to help reduce the vacancies left by retirement.
The council in June directed staff to look at finances when the mid-year budget workshop takes place later this month to determine if the city can hire one or more officers now instead of waiting to consider doing so after July 1.
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