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Keeping Manteca SHARP
Volunteers tackle broken window issues
SHARPS1 7-26-09
SHARP volunteer Lee Maldonaldo helps direct traffic during a fire emergency. - photo by Bulletin file photo

You probably don’t notice very many garage sale signs — if any —from the previous weekend tacked up on light poles and such in Manteca.

Nor does graffiti linger long as it does in other communities.

And abandoned shopping carts don’t stay put for very many days.

It’s all because of 65 dedicated volunteers with the Manteca Police Department’s Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP).

Without them, Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion noted officers would still be responding as quickly to priority one calls where lives are in danger or a serious felony is in progress. But what would go to the wayside are quality of life concerns.

“Broken window” issues — crimes such as graffiti that left unchecked can allow criminal behavior to take root — would become a major issue in Manteca.

Obligacion said SHARP volunteers are fixing the broken windows.

“Every Monday they go around town and take down the illegal garage signs that people put up,” the police chief said.

Clearing away illegal signs, cleaning up graffiti, and keeping on top of pilfered shopping carts are just a small part of what the volunteers do.

The group has a rapid response team that is typically called out at night when police officer staffing is at its lowest point to help direct traffic and secure crime scenes when a major accident or event happens.

“If we have six officers on duty with a traffic accident at a major intersection we can’t afford to have four working traffic control while the other two investigate the scene,” Obligacion said.

That’s where the rapid response team comes in. They have been taught how to property control traffic, lay down and light flares, and other steps needed to assure public safety and to keep areas closed while an active crime or accident investigation is underway.

“The officers appreciate not being tied up doing traffic control,” Obligacion said.

SHARP volunteers also serve as additional eyes for the department checking on schools during drop-off and pick-up times, driving through neighborhoods and shopping centers, and doing requested vacation checks of homes.

The police chief said the volunteers have been trained on proper procedures as well as when not to get involved with a situation. As a result they work seamless with police officers when they are called upon to help in the field.

Obligacion praised the volunteers for how they have improved their image and the community’s perception in recent years after a period where relationships with some residents were less than stellar.

“Marty Maldonado (SHARP captain) has done a good job at taking the SHARPs from getting reactions from some people of ‘here come those guys again’ to people really being appreciative to see them,” the chief said.

SHARP volunteers along with Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members are a big reason why the costs to stage parades are kept at a minimum in Manteca. It’s because they help close streets and assist with crowd control.

SHARP volunteers also help in records, property storage, delivering documents to the court and a number of other jobs.

Over the years SHARP volunteers have provided in excess 21,000 hours of volunteer service annually.

Obligacion said he has heard comments from some questioning vehicle maintenance and gas costs that the city incurs to put SHARP in donated vehicles.

“When you think of all the service they do, the amount the city spends on gas and maintenance is minimal,” the chief said.

The SHARP unit was launched in 1992 on former Police Chief Willie Weatherford’s watch. Volunteers must be 40 years or age or older.