Manteca Police are stepping up their enforcement of municipal law that prohibits anyone being in a city park past posted closure times unless there is a city-authorized event going on.
On Thursday night police officers issued 14 citations to those who were in parks illegally after they were closed. Most of the offenders were homeless.
At the same time four of those cited for being in violation of posted park closure hours had seven warrants for their arrests between them. They were either arrested or cited based on the severity of the warrants.
By ordinance, most parks in Manteca are closed between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. although some exceptions have been carved out for community parks as well as Library Park. That said all parks have posted hours. The closure hours also apply to off-street parking lots if the park has one.
The biggest problem parks for use after hours are Library Park, Lincoln Park, Northgate Park, Spreckels Park/BMX track, and the Tidewater Bikeway greenbelt park.
Most of the issues revolve around homeless although they also involve the sheltered.
The effort Thursday night that will be repeated periodically was made possible due to the city dedicating two police officers as community resource officers. Their primary duties are helping direct homeless to resources to help them get off the street as well as dealing with crimes that homeless commit involving laws that apply to everyone regardless of their housing status.
The decision to dedicate police resources for targeted enforcement has helped get 240 homeless off the street and either into resource programs to help them get back on their feet or reunite them with family.
It has also led to a drop to a degree in vandalism and other issues.
For example the officers on the detail suggested that city leaders do a number of things that have since improved situations. Among them was securing the Manteca Library courtyard with a wrought iron fence. It has stopped homeless from sleeping in the courtyard overnight where they were routinely defecating and urinating as well as damaging lights so they could charge phones. They also were leaving significant trash in the area and some would intimidate library staff arriving for work.
The cost of the fencing within a year saved the amount of money the city was spending on staff time to clean up the area on almost a daily basis and replacing damaged fixtures.
Another was removal of mature shrubbery at Wilson Park along the fence line with the downtown post office. That has eliminated people camping in the landscaping as well as storing stuff there.
Officers Mike Kelly and Stephen Smith working with homeless have come up with solutions that the homeless buy into such as hanging around the gazebo toward the back of Library Park when the park is open instead of around the children’s playground.
Police have correctly noted that the parks — when they are open — can be used by anyone regardless of their housing status. Officers noted that when homeless were told about the concerns parents had with people hanging around the playground said they understood the concern.
Both officers typically work during the day providing seven day a week coverage for homeless related concerns.
A Manteca Police Department news release notes “although resourcing individuals is the goal, enforcement is also used as a tool to discourage illegal or prohibited behavior. Both officers will continue to randomly work varying days and hours to address any issues and to encourage compliance in addition to providing additional resources and working with other community and government organizations to provide assistance.”
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