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Mayor Cantu vows push for more traffic officers to address what’s ‘almost like road rage everyday’
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There are two less dedicated traffic officers in Manteca today enforcing laws on everything from stop signs to speeding than there were in 2009.

Mayor Ben Cantu is frustrated when it comes to venturing out on the streets of Manteca these days whether he is on a car or on foot.

“We need to bring the level of respect to an acceptable level,” Cantu said Thursday during a City Council meeting staged to update elected leaders on the activities and projects of various municipal departments. “Nobody respects anybody. Nobody respects pedestrians. It’s almost like road rage every day.”

The response he got recapped how the police focus on areas where there are the most collisions and traffic, how the design of roads encourage faster driving, and issues with technology providing for quieter rides to make it easier for people to speed without knowing. 

At one point it was explained to the council that the police prioritize the deployment of their three dedicated traffic officers. That may mean they tend to ignore areas where citizens have provided video depicting wholesale and wanton running of stop signs but no accidents have occurred to concentrate limited resources on areas where statistics show there is a high chance of injury accidents happening. That said, the department has been consistent in responding to citizens’ complaints about specific traffic issues in specific areas, but that usually is for a brief period unless accidents lead to more intense patrol. They are forced to do that due to limited manpower.

Singh: Typical Manteca

resident more likely to

face death & injuries on

streets than from crime

Cantu said “we need to punish people” by writing more tickets to try to restore respectful driving

On Monday, Cantu doubled down saying he will push for a more muscular traffic unit for the budget starting July 1.

“After listening to the departments (make their presentations) it is clear we aren’t fully staffed anywhere,” Cantu said Monday. That said he wants manpower restored to a level that basic safety on Manteca’s streets can be expected.

Councilman Gary Singh made the same point at the 2018 mid-year budget review council meeting for more police officers dedicated specifically to traffic enforcement but the view that was also shared by then Councilman Mike Morowit and the rest of the council did not materialize in the form of more traffic officers when staff developed the current budget.

Singh on Monday stressed that the typical Manteca resident is much more likely to be killed or injured in a traffic accident than by any crime.  Singh also noted financial losses are not only more likely from traffic accidents than crime for Manteca residents but the losses are significantly higher. 

Manteca Police statistics over the past decade along with National Traffic Safety Administration data supports Singh’s point.

uThere were almost 2.6 accidents a day on average during 2017 in Manteca that got the attention of the police department. That was a 30 percent increase over 2009. There were 946 traffic accidents in Manteca in 2017 compared to 675 in 2009 

uThere were 66 percent less citations for moving violations issued in 2017 (1,155) compared to 2009 (3,458). Accidents are up double digits, moving violation tickets are down double digits.

uMore people die in a given year in Manteca in traffic accidents than from homicide. Given most murder victims know their killers meaning your chances of getting killed by a stranger are significantly greater driving, bicycling or walking down the street in Manteca than it is during the commission of a crime.

uSixteen people died in traffic collisions from 2014 through 2018 in Manteca whether they were auto versus pedestrian, vehicle versus vehicle or solo accidents. There were six deaths in 2014, four deaths in 2015, four deaths in 2017, and two deaths in 2018. That is more deaths combined on Manteca’s streets than were recorded in the previous 12 years.

uThere were 8.5 times more traffic collisions in Manteca during 2018 than aggravated assaults — 946 versus 111. That means your personal safety is jeopardized 850% more while driving, bicycling or walking than it is by criminals.

uThere was $2.7 million worth of property that was stolen in Manteca in 2017 that wasn’t recovered. Assuming a low-ball figure of $5,000 in losses per accident those 946 accidents in 2017 represent at least an economic loss of $4.7 million or 74 percent more than from property losses connected with crime.

Cantu, Singh note issue

isn’t more people than

it is less enforcement

Both Cantu and Singh dismissed staff pointing out the increases are basically a reflection of Manteca having 16,000 more residents than the city had in 2009 when the population was 65,993 meaning there was a comparable jump in cars.

The reason they dismiss it has to do with significantly less tickets being issued given Manteca had five officers dedicated to traffic enforcement in 2009 compared to three today.

“I don’t know what the exact number of officers would be, but I want the traffic unit fully staffed,” Cantu said.

Back in 2009, Manteca had a traffic officer for every 13,000 residents. Based on that number Manteca should have 6.2 traffic officers today and not three.

Manteca Police Chief Jodie Estarziau noted it makes more sense to staff a department based on workload and statistics of what is actually happening as opposed to a measure by population such as the 1 officer per 1,000 standards for overall police staffing that is batted about.

Based on accidents being up 30 percent since 2009, using statistics it would suggest 6.6 traffic officers would be justified to achieve the same level of relative decorum and safety on Manteca’s streets in 2009.

Singh agreed with Cantu if more tickets were issued more people would think twice about committing moving violations given the ramifications not only on the price of the ticket and court costs but also the negative impact it can have  on auto insurance.

Singh has repeatedly observed if Manteca can succeed in getting 60 percent of the drivers to slow down and not speed that means the streets will have 60 percent less speeding.

The councilman also noted if Manteca had a six officer traffic unit it would generate more income from traffic tickets.

The bulk of what drivers pay for tickets goes to the state and to operate the court system with a fraction being returned to the city. Of the 3,882 number of overall citations issued in 2017, the city received roughly enough money to cover the cost of one officer’s salary and benefits.

That said, doubling the traffic unit to six officers if everything also doubles in terms of tickets being issued would likely generate enough funds to offset the cost of one of those additional officers.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email