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MPD goal: Zero crime
Police chief seeks to continue crime rate drop
Police Chief Nick Obligacion identified 15 positions hed like to see eventually added to the ranks of the Manteca Police Department. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca Police — by virtually all yardsticks — has an impressive response time to priority one calls.

Officers last year were on scene in an average of 4 minutes and 48 seconds from the time a dispatcher answers a 9-1-1 call to life threatening crime such as a robbery in progress, shooting, stabbing, assault, violent mental case or kidnapping. That’s an improvement of 11 seconds over 2013 average response times. 

Manteca was able to keep a response time that is better for priority one calls than many cities its size despite the drop in city revenues by the department reshuffling resources so they continued to have the same number of officers on the street despite staffing cutbacks. And while that is partially credited to the continued reduction in crime rates, it has come at a price.

There is a backlog of cases that need to be investigated, all requested traffic enforcement can’t be handled, and lower priority responses — urgent situations that aren’t emergencies such as prowlers and suspicious vehicles to things such as barking dogs and cold burglaries that are non-emergency with no serious problem involved — are taking longer.

Priority two calls had an average response time of 19:29 minutes last year compared to 17:57 minutes in 2013. Priority three calls took an average 37:15 minutes in 2014 for a response that is usually handled by a community service officer and not a sworn-officer. The time was 37:15 minutes in 2013. Priority three calls can also be handled via online reporting if a citizen so chooses.

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Felonies at lowest level since 2002

Felonies in Manteca were at their lowest numerical level last year since at least 2002.

There were 1,745 felonies reported in Manteca in 2014. That’s down 18.23 percent from 2013 and just seven more than the 1,728 reported in 2002. And even though California voters in November changed some felonies into misdemeanors during the last seven weeks of the year, the number was negligible when it came to Manteca’s crime statistics.

Misdemeanors were down 11.6 percent last year going to 3,123 from 3,533 in 2013. 

Felonies that include crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, residential burglary, grand theft, commercial burglary, vehicle theft, and arson are down significantly in the past 12 years given Manteca has actually grown by 18,000 residents from 54,975 in 2002 to today’s population of 73,000.

Last year marked the second straight year for felonies to drop in Manteca. They had spiked upward in 2011 and 2012 when a surge of gang activity was taking place including drive-by shootings that for a number of months were happening once to twice a week. The re-establishment of the Gang Suppression Unit reduced gang activity.

As the city is able to afford to restore and add positions in the police department, Police Chief Nick Obligacion wants to take a methodical approach that allows officers to make further inroads into crime while at the same time improving response time to lower priority calls.

“Manteca’s crime rate has gone down but I’m not going to be happy until all of the numbers in the columns all read ‘zero’,’ Obligacion said.

While the police chief conceded it is an impossible goal to reach, he wants the attitude driving the department that having a lower crime rate isn’t good enough in that it needs to be lower even more.

And he doesn’t want to live in the past, pining for how it was before budget cuts were needed to deal with plummeting city receives triggered by the Great Recession.

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15 positions the chief would like to add as money becomes available

“We want to start as if it is a clean slate,” Obligacion said.

That was the premise behind Obligacion’s presentation during the midyear budget and goals review conducted by the Manteca City Council.

His presentation was essentially a “if I had a blank check” approach and listed 15 positions and the order he would prefer they be restored or added as the city is able to find funding to do so.

The department has 65 sworn officers and 27 non-sworn personnel including 11dispatchers, 4 community service officers, 6 records personnel, a booking officer, 2 code enforcement officers, and 3 animal control officers.

His first priority would be adding four officers for special assignment — a detective for the investigations unit, a traffic officer, a street crimes unit officer, and a gang suppression officer.

The police chief said an additional detective would make the caseload more manageable.

There are currently 1,846 backlogged cases with 1,491 cases suspended pending future leads.

“This is creating a ‘we don’t care attitude’ in the public’s eyes,” Obligacion said.

He added detectives handle cases based on the severity of the offense. That meant on Saturday night when the North Main Street murder occurred, all detectives dropped everything they were doing and focused all of their attention on that case. A murder cases typically involves thousands of hours of detective work.

There are currently three traffic officers. A fourth would allow the division to keep up with the volume of requests for specific enforcement.

The Street Crimes Unit tackles quality-of-life issues as well as narcotics enforcement. The SCU now handles one issue at a time. A fourth officer would allow two teams and enable them to target a larger area.

The Gang Suppression Unit handles all gang-related issues. An additional officer would broaden their target area and should put even more pressure on gang violence.

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2 more patrol officers would cut excessive OT

Next on the list is two more patrol officers. That would bring the patrol level up to 33 officers. It would continue to maintain the current staffing level but would reduce excess overtime forced by vacation, holidays, and mandated training and area of expertise training.

An additional three community service officers would be split with two helping handle 45 percent of the cold calls the department receives where there are no suspects on scene. Two more CSOs in the field would relive patrol officers to be more proactive within their assigned beats. The third CSO would be assigned to property. There are 55,000 individuals pieces of property and evidence that must be maintained and accounted for. The job is currently assigned to existing CSOs when needed. Often times it involves retrieving evidence that an office needs for a court appearance.

An additional booking officer would also help relieve patrol officers of transportation of suspects duties thus keeping them on the street. 

Currently the one booking officer works the day shift. He also does other things that do not require a full-scale officer that is paid more such as the detail targeting homeless encampment clean-up and supervising county community service crews to do the actual labor. A second booking officer would save either graveyard or night shift officers from having to book a suspect and — when appropriate — drive them to the county jail. Booking an arrested suspect can take an officer off the streets for several hours during a shift.

Two additional dispatchers would help reduce the stress of the current call volume that included 33,683 calls for service last year that was up 1.97 percent over 2013 levels. Dispatchers also handled all communications with officers in the field. Additional dispatchers would allow an increase in performance and customer service.

Two additional school resource officers that the chief would like to see hired would bring the total to six. There are no SROs assigned to feeder schools. The two additional SROs would divide the feeder schools and divide their attention to those specific schools.

The last position on his list is one animal control officer.

Staffing recently returned to pre-recession levels which is the manpower that they have had for the past 25 years. Manteca is now a low kill shelter thanks to the effort of the three animal control officers.

Proactive patrol, pubic services and public education s limited to when there is time available. A fourth animal control officer would enhance pro-activity, public services, and public education.