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Goal is to deter crime as well as secure info for arrests, successful prosecutions
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The scene where gunfire was exchanged at Northgate Park in April. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Northgate Park is one of 21 locations in Manteca that will have high resolution surveillance cameras installed.

Had they been in place last April when gang members turned the parking lot of Northgate Park into a shooting gallery forcing the East Union High junior varsity practicing at the city complex to run for cover, they may not have prevented the gunfire from taking place, but it could have provided invaluable footage to help Manteca Police catch the culprits involved.

While witnesses provided police with information they haven’t been able to make any arrests of the 28 individuals believed to have been involved in the altercation that involved the firing of at least 10 shots. Had police been able to retrieve crisp surveillance images, they could have posted them on Facebook and social media where they have enjoyed significant success at bringing suspects to justice including two persons believed to be responsible for the beating of a 71-year-old man on a morning walk at Graystone Park.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a $347,891 contract with V5 Systems. It will include 41 cameras — many with solar or battery packs that can be moved throughout the community. Some of the cameras that will be used at the transit station and 11 bus shelters are being paid for with federal money restricted for transit security. Others will be placed at parks. The contract includes servers to store a year’s worth of footage as required by state law, software to monitor the cameras, training, installation, and a two-year warranty. There will also be software that can reduce searches of footage looking for a particular subject or vehicle from hours to seconds.

It is the first phase of a two-pronged plan to step up law enforcement efforts. Municipal staff is currently working on a plan that will place  license plate readers at all major entrances to the city to scan for stolen vehicles or vehicles wanted in connection with crimes.

Manteca Police Captain Charlie Goeken noted police lack the staff to man monitors providing live feeds from the cameras 24/7. He added the cameras will make the efforts of officers to bring criminals to justice more muscular therefore reducing crime potential through successful prosecution of culprits. High quality surveillance images are both key to identifying and helping prosecute suspects.

Other parks the cameras will be placed at are Morezone, Southside, Library, Lincoln, and Wilson. All of those parks including Northgate have had issues involving illegal acts by some of the city’s homeless population. Southside has ongoing issues with gangs while in the past Southside and Library parks have been problem areas for drug sales and — in the case of Library Park — occasionally prostitution.

With how the cameras are being positioned  — at Northgate Park for example they will cover the restroom building, picnic area and parking lot — it should be fairly easy after a crime takes place to review footage and secure images good enough to identify subjects and then prosecuting them.

Goeken said the cameras will be placed in high profile locations with ample signage.

The police captain said that would likely lead criminals to think twice about committing crimes at locations where the cameras are given they wouldn’t want to recorded breaking the law.

A replacement camera also will be placed at the skate park along the Tidewater Bikeway. Another will go at the city well on the northwest quadrant of the Louise Avenue overcrossing of Louise Avenue where the homeless have been a consistent problem breaking into the fenced in area to set up encampments.

Apps will allow the public works staff to monitor the well camera via phones or computers as well as letting the Parks & Recreation staff to do the same with parks. Police will be able to monitor all camera locations.

The City Council concurred with the police staff that allowing public to access the cameras via apps wasn’t a good idea.

Such a move, Goeken said, would give the public the impression police are monitoring cameras 24/7 that they simply can’t do because of the manpower it would require.

And while some on the council would like to possibly see the public being able to access cameras that may be placed in the future at intersections like Santa Clara does so residents, if they wish, can monitor traffic and adjust driving routes accordingly, they agreed with Police Chief Jodie Estarziau that having public access to other cameras was not a good idea.

“It’s creepy to think that someone can watch my family on camera,” Estarziau said of park cameras that will be focused on playgrounds, the city swimming pool, restrooms and such.

Goeken noted such public access could be used by those seeking to violate custody orders involving children or by those that might be stalking someone.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email