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Police volunteers tackle graffiti, shopping carts
A group photo shows most of the Manteca Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police in August of 2012. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Manteca is relatively free of abandoned shopping carts and graffiti thanks to the tireless efforts of one of California’s largest citizens’ police volunteer corps - the Manteca Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP).

The efforts of folks like retired AT&T worker William Loder who serves as a SHARP lieutenant means Manteca isn’t being overtaken with graffiti or shopping carts as some areas have in neighboring Modesto and Stockton.

“There’s no comparison,” noted Loder who has lived in Manteca for 27 years and has been a SHARP volunteer for the past four years. “You get past a certain point heading north of Airport Way and everything is covered with graffiti.”

Four SHARP volunteers are assigned to the graffiti detail.

On Mondays they patrol the city and document graffiti they come across - whether it is tagging or gang-related. They use a digital camera to record the image for later prosecution and fill out forms describing the location and extent of the problem. They also collect other reports made by officers, city workers and officials, ands well as citizens.

On Wednesday, as much of the smaller graffiti as possible is abated by a SHARP volunteers. Some graffiti is referred to the city code enforcement officer to deal directly with the property owner who was hit.

The on Saturday major graffiti damage or that on tougher to paint of clean services is left to a detail that includes those in the sheriff’s alternative work program supervised by officer Mike Kelly assisted by a SHARP officer. The city covers recurring costs such as paint chemical removal products, latex gloves, spray paint, roller pads, and latex paint while SHARP provides the paint truck and van and a newly purchased sprayer.

Last week SHARP volunteers documented 17 separate cases of graffiti.

“The SHARP unit does an excellent job dealing with graffiti,” noted Manteca Police Captain Charlie Goeken in an e-mail. “While on patrol they remove the smaller graffiti immediately. The SHARP members document the larger graffiti issues for the weekend inmate crew run by Mike Kelly and they assist Mike Kelly by helping transport the work release inmates on Saturdays. ... The SHARP unit can always use more members.

SHARP officers document all visible abandoned shopping carts they find on their patrols. Then on Wednesday a SHARP volunteer compiles a list and faxes locations of carts to about two dozen different stores.

Most retrieve the carts after they receive the SHARP faxes given that the carts cost between $200 and $400 each.

Those that aren’t picked up in a timely manner, the SHARP volunteers try to pick up the slack using the Saturday work detail.

It isn’t uncommon for SHARP to help in the removal of at least two dozen shopping carts each week.

The SHARP volunteers do a host of other duties on a regular basis including reporting loose dogs, reporting dead animals on the streets, remove yard sale an missing pet signs, volunteer at the animal shelter, fill out abandoned vehicle forms for follow up by the community service officers, issue courtesy warnings for illegal parking in fire zones and handicapped zones, patrol bike path, perform vacation daily house checks, help patrol schools for safety, provide extra eyes patrolling neighborhood and commercial zones, provide traffic control at accidents and fires to free up officers, perform daily mail runs with other law enforcement agencies such as the district attorney’s office and courts, maintain and deploy three radar units, help with missing senior adult and children cases, and assist with office duties where needed.