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City adds cameras, drones plus seeking license plate readers
One of the city’s new surveillance cameras placed at Lincoln Park.

Manteca Police Department is deploying surveillance cameras, license plate readers, and three drones.

It is part of a concerted effort by the city to maximize the effectiveness of its force of 73 sworn officers.

The installation of 30 cameras with solar or battery packs that can be moved throughout the community has been completed. They include cameras that will be used at the transit station and 11 bus shelters that must be used as part of the transit system given they were purchased with federal money restricting them for that purpose.

A request for proposals is now being circulated to install at least 10 license plate recognition cameras at strategic locations around Manteca. 

Three drones have been acquired with officers now going through specialized training needed to operate the drones in a law enforcement setting.

Police Chief Jodie Estarziau said community meetings are being planned to explain how the drones will be deployed.

“They should be a very effective tool,” Estarziau said.

Drones will be deployed in very specific situations. That includes helping police track suspects that bail during foot chases, searching for missing persons, and for use when SWAT may be dealing with a situation involving barricaded armed suspects.

Estarziau eventually would like to see license plate readers installed at all key intersections in the city.

The cameras are used by police departments tapping into a statewide data base to quickly scan the plates of passing vehicles for:

Detect stolen vehicles.

Scan for vehicles tied into missing person reports, wanted felons, Amber Alerts, and gang members.

Investigations that can help place a suspect as a scene and aiding in witness identification.

Estarziau said the cameras when they “hit” on a plate that has been entered into the statewide database it will almost instantly flash up on a screen in the dispatch center. From that point officers are dispatched as needed.

Estarziau noted stolen vehicles — or vehicles with stolen plates — are often used in the commission of crimes. By alerting Manteca Police that a stolen vehicle is entering the city not only can they potentially retrieve stolen property and solve a crime that has been committed but can also prevent a crime from occurring.

The cameras that have recently become operational and staff training complete, have live feeds into the police dispatch center with a dedicated monitor. 

Estarziau said if a citizen calls in about a crime in progress or a suspicious situation where a camera is located, a dispatcher can switch to a camera to inform officers in real time what is happening within the camera’s line of sight.

The biggest advantage, however, is expected to be in the investigation of crimes.

To that end the city has also acquired software that will allow it to scan stored camera feeds — as well as surveillance video collected from private sector cameras — looking for specific things during a set time frame.

For example an investigator can type in words such as “a Caucasian man between 20 and 40 years of age” with “blonde hair” and driving a “red truck” between “10 a.m. and noon” on a specific date. The software will que up all of the applicable footage in a matter of seconds.

“Now it can literally tie up manpower for hours looking at video footage,” Estarziau noted.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email