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Manteca pursuing cameras for park safety
SOUTHSIDE3 7-18-09
Brianna Rodriguez, 6, left, and Deja Carter, 7, play on the park equipment at Southside Park on Thursday. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

There was a time when parents were reluctant to allow their kids to go to the Manteca skate park.

Set off a ways from Center Street along the Tidewater Bikeway, there were constant problems ranging from fighting and bullying to the flashing of weapons.

Virtually all of those problems disappeared when Manteca Police installed two security cameras at the skate park that are monitored at the dispatch center.

Manteca leaders are hoping 24/7 security cameras will do the same thing for Southside Park in the neighborhood immediately south of downtown. While gang problems have been reduced, parents aren’t comfortable sending their children to play in the park even though there was $150,000 in playground improvements made several years ago.

The City Council Tuesday will take the next step in getting security cameras installed at both Southside Park and Library Park when they transfer $88,852 in federal Community Development Block Grants funds from the senior center parking lot project to the security camera effort. The parking lot ended up costing less than the $212,743 originally expected.

That money will be married with $30,000 in pass through funds already set aside for the security cameras as well as  part of a Citizen’s Option for Police Safety (COPS) Supplemental Law Enforcement Funding grant that has also been earmarked for the cameras.

The money will pay for cameras and the “backbone” needed to transmit images to the police station.

Assistant City Manager Karen McLaughlin noted in a staff report if the camera project comes under expected costs the council would have the option of installing cameras at a third park or transferring the pass through funds to another project that qualifies for the federal block grant money.

The cameras would be placed high enough and with adequate protection to allow dispatchers to monitor the park unimpeded from police headquarters.

The cameras are expected to help alert police of trouble as well as enhancing the prosecution of individuals who are arrested while being monitored via the cameras.

Southside Park is located just south of downtown at Oak and Park streets.

Library Park in downtown was picked for the second location to have cameras installed due to continuing issues with alcoholic consumption, individuals ‘camping’ in and around the park and library.”

A gang officer could go into dispatch and scan all the parks in 10 minutes that would take him an hour or so to drive around town to check.
The surveillance cameras in parks is an outgrowth of the successful use of three remote cameras to help police the Manteca skate park that is difficult to keep tabs on due to its remote location along the Tidewater Bikeway and away from Center Street.

Problems at the skate park that ran the gamut from weapons being displayed, flashing, graffiti and general bullying have been reduced to a small fraction of what they were prior to the cameras being put in place. The city feeds one image directly to the City of Manteca website so the general public can see what’s going on at the skate park. That image, along with those from two other cameras that can be remotely panned and to zoom in is monitored at the dispatch center.

The end result is quicker detection of problems and the ability to give officers en route detailed and up to date information as viewed by the dispatcher.

The equipment — usually placed high on telephone poles or light standards with clear shots of the area being watched — is durable enough to withstand weather and abuse.

The cameras would be a tool to augment the effectiveness of the city’s police officers. They would also address growing concerns that parks are becoming more susceptible to criminal activity unless police step up patrols.

Targeted patrols will still be done but police have pointed out such a system would effectively allow the department to not only check parks more frequently for trouble but direct responding officers to the troublemakers.

It is also keeping with the police department’s long-held contention that the more eyes and ears helping them do their job through Neighborhood Watch Groups and alert individual citizens, the more effective they can be fighting crime.

In this case, they would be eyes that never sleep. Cameras would be monitored 24/7 at the dispatch center.

Rounding out the top five priority park list for security cameras as noted in a 2008 memo are Baccelleri Park immediately east of Southside Park, Hildebrand Park on Fir Street on the east side of the central district and Lincoln Park on Powers Avenue.

The City Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail