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Manteca Police wish list: MESH camera system
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The eyes of Ripon Police are upon you if you break the law in that city.

A decision several years ago by Ripon leaders to partner with Motorola to use the city as a prototype for a MESH – multimedia embedded security hub – system has turned police officers into a 21st century version of Robocops.

When a crime occurs – such as a bank robbery – a citywide system of cameras that are mounted at key intersections and elsewhere are scanned at the dispatch center and the vital images that give officers the view of the suspect vehicle are sent immediately to onboard computer screens in patrol units.

The MESH system – coupled with well-trained police – were credited with playing a big part in the capture of suspects in two separate robberies this month at the Bank of Stockton. Police – although not in the scene when the robberies happened – were literally following the suspects almost the second they stepped out of the bank’s doors.

Having a MESH system is on Police Chief Dave Bricker’s wish list.

“It is an incredible way to increase the effectiveness of officers,” Bricker said.

The price tag to put cameras and an integrated system with dispatch and police units is projected to be in excess of $1 million given the fact that Manteca with multiple access points on two different freeways is a sieve compared to Ripon when it comes to routes for fleeing suspects to take.

Manteca, though, could use the lobbying firm it has retained to make a strong case for federal funding for such a system. The next round of federal law enforcement stimulus funds will target high tech investments that will enhance the effectiveness of police officers.

Even if Manteca doesn’t become wired like Ripon that has even placed cameras at points near popular river access to reduce underage drinking and illegal parties, it will start going more high tech in terms of remote surveillance starting in 2010.

Specifications for remote surveillance camera systems are being prepared to go to bid using grant funds already issued to the city. The cameras will be placed in Southside and Library parks and possibly Northgate Park if the funds can be stretched that far.

They will be monitored at the dispatch center allowing officers to look for gang problems and other issues such as drinking or vandalism being committed.

Such a camera at the skate park has been credited with drastically reducing problems at that relatively remote location off Canter Street. After the skate park opened, there was constant trouble at the skate park with fights, indecent exposure and even the display of weapons. That has essentially gone away thanks to the camera system. In one case, a dispatcher sent an officer to the skate park after noticing a problem. They were able to tell the responding officer where the suspect had placed a knife on his person to greatly enhance officer safety and to diffuse the problem.