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Neighborhood organizes to take on crime
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• NATIONAL NIGHT OUT PARTIES: Manteca’s 25th National Night Out - a community police partnership aimed at fighting crime - takes place on Tuesday, Aug. 7. Manteca Police are urging residents to organize block parties to get to know their neighbors as the first step toward fighting crime. Last year there were more than 80 block parties. For more information on the event or to register a block party call Jodie Estarziau at 456-8161, Brandy Clark at 456-8623 or Jason Hensley at 456-8149.

Miles Kelley wants to take back his neighborhood.

The longtime Manteca resident is encouraging his neighbors to do likewise. He’s arranged for Manteca Police Department officials along with elected leaders to attend a Thursday evening meeting at Yosemite Village Park.

Those residing in the area that borders South Union Road (east), Wawona Street (north) and Locust Avenue (east) are encouraged to attend the 5:30 p.m. session on Thursday at the five-acre park on El Capitan and El Portal avenues. The neighborhood has had a surge in recent gang violence including two drive-by shootings.

“We’ve had drive-by shootings nearby and cars going 70 mph and doing donuts in our streets,” Kelley said on Friday.

Kelley is hoping that his neighborhood will start a trend to return the city back to a time when it had one of the highest concentrations of Neighborhood Watch groups in Northern California and in turn much less crime problems.

It dovetails into Police Chief Nick Obligacion’s call for more community participation in helping police keep neighborhoods safe.

Neighborhood Watch groups operate on the principle that the more you know you neighbors and their habits the more likely you are to notice something amiss and alert police.

Police representatives also share information with watch groups on what people can look for when something is amiss. In more than a handful of instances over the past year, alert neighbors who provided information to the police dispatch that was relayed to officers en route have played a key role in arresting burglars. That, in turn, has helped reduce overall residential burglaries in Manteca for the first six months of this year by 24.85 percent going from 169 in the first months of 2011 to 127 for the same time period this year.

Kelley said he also has safety concerns.

“The way people drive around here I won’t be surprised if they tag a kid,” Kelley, who has lived in the area since 1966.

He recalled a time when Neighborhood Watch was prevalent.

“That was years ago. But the people involved either moved or got too old to carry the burden,” said Kelley, who’s hoping that the upcoming meeting can spark enough interest from residents to put together another Neighborhood Watch program.

He has other concerns.

 “Just the other day, I chased three bums who were sleeping in my front yard,” Kelley said. “We also get kids who throw out pop bottles out of their car.”

Keeping close tabs on the neighborhood, he hopes, will deter some of the problems that have continued to escalate since May.

“I think it’s important that we take back what’s ours,” said Kelley, who will be conducting a door-to-door campaign to get the word out about the upcoming meeting.