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Manteca will soon deploy license plate scanners
Two cameras would be employed on westbound Lathrop Road at Main Street.

Manteca Police — by the time summer is over — will have 32 extra eyes that will never rest 24/7 on the streets looking for stolen cars and vehicles wanted in connection with crimes.

The Manteca City Council tonight is expected to give its final blessing to a citywide automated license plate reader system. The $650,000 cost will include 32 cameras.

And because the contractor — Sacramento-based Lehr firm — uses Vigilant Solutions equipment Manteca and Ripon which has a similar system will be able to share data.

The scanners mounted on cross arms of traffic signals take photos of license plates capturing date, time and GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken. Each plate image captured along with the data (date, time and location) is stored in a database that can be searched only by authorized personnel.

If a license plate has already been flagged and entered into the DMV data base as either being stolen or wanted in connection with a crime, the system initially alerts dispatch to the vehicle and allows police to respond.

In the most recent examples in Ripon, the system twice within a week pinged on vehicles wanted in two different crimes that led to arrests.

“License plate data is very useful in solving burglaries, robberies, stolen vehicles and other cases where a license plate, partial license plate or certain vehicle characteristics are known,” noted Police Chief Jodie Estarziau in a memo to the City Council. “The license plate readers also scan for known stolen or hot listed vehicles and alert the police of their presence.”

The police chief indicated the cameras will be able to deter criminal activity at various locations within the city limits as well as provide a tool to help in the identification, apprehension and prosecution of criminals. 

Stolen cars or stolen plates used on other cars are typically used in the commission of crimes. That said having a stolen car in itself is a crime.

Unlike cameras on Fastrak lanes as well as red light cameras, the scanners are not used to issue traffic citations.

Manteca sandwiched between No. 7 and No. 8 worst cities for vehicle

 theft in nation

The impact the scanners could have on stolen car crimes could be significant. Manteca is sandwiched between two major epicenters of vehicle theft. Modesto was ranked 7th national for vehicle thefts and Stockton-Lodi 8th in 2017 for auto theft rates by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The Stockton-Lodi area had 4,575 vehicle thefts in 2017

Manteca’s vehicle thefts in raw numbers for 2017 were at the lowest since 2013 and 58.3 percent lower than in 2005 when 2.2 autos were stolen on an average day.

The year 2017 saw an average of 0.80 vehicles stolen on a daily basis in Manteca.

The City of Manteca managed a 13.53 percent drop in auto theft going from 340 in 2016 to 294 in 2017. The only time the actual number was lower since the dawn of the current century was 270 in 2012 and 238 in 2011. The rate per 1,000 residents in 2017 was actually slightly higher at 3.80 as compared to 3.81 in 2012. The vehicle theft rate per 1,000 residents was 3.40 in 2011.

The highest year for vehicle thefts in Manteca is still 2005 when 798 vehicles were stolen. That was 13.3 vehicles per 1,000 residents or roughly 3.5 times the per capita rate in 2017. The 798 vehicles stolen in 2005 included a big rig tractor left idling in front of a home and a Manteca Police patrol unit

The data the cameras collect is an effective tool in following up on crimes that have been committed to help in the identification, apprehension and prosecution of criminals.

The system has search capabilities to reduce to minutes what used to take hours or even days to search.

The police chief in an interview in May said the initial intersections being outfitted with cameras will be key major entrances to the city just as intersections immediately off of Highway 99 or the 120 Bypass. Eventually it would be ideal to have all intersections closest to freeways covered as well as those closest to surface street entrances to Manteca such as Louise Avenue and others.

To do so would take a significant number of cameras. It will take, as an example, eight cameras to effectively cover just the Airport Way and Daniels Street intersection north of the 120 Bypass.

The City Council meets at 7 o’clock tonight at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email