Surveillance cameras are expected to be in place by sometime in November at two downtown hot spots for issues involving the homeless as well as lawbreakers.
Police Chief Jodie Estarziau informed the Manteca City Council Tuesday that her department is working with a firm to put surveillance cameras in Library Park and Wilson Park behind the Post Office as part of a test to see how effective they may be in helping police addresses issues at those two locations.
The cameras will have the ability to be easily moved to other locations.
In addition, Captain Charlie Goeken is exploring how surveillance cameras elsewhere could help make police more effective at dealing with crime. Initially to keep the effort as cost-effective as possible, Goeken is working with the city IT Department to see how police could piggyback on infrastructure at the downtown transit center not only to monitor that location but at the roughly two dozen bus stop shelters throughout the city.
Estarziau noted an ultimate surveillance camera system would be similar to what Ripon has in place that includes cameras on various street locations as well as strategic spots such as inside banks that would feed live video of a bank robbery in progress directly to monitors in patrol units as well as the dispatch center.
“That way an officer could see exactly what the suspects look like that they are looking for instead of a general description such as a white male of average build in their 30s,” Estarziau said.
The police chief noted that the feed into dispatch would not have a dispatcher dedicated to monitoring the screens given the department lacks the manpower. Instead, if the police receive a call from a citizen about suspicious activity, dispatch can check the video feed and assess the situation.
If the suspicious activity warrants sending an officer, dispatch can provide real time information while police are in transit.
“It (surveillance cameras) worked real well at the skate park,” Estarziau related.
She recalled that when it first open, its semi-isolated location made it a magnet for illegal activity such as drug sales. Police were able to virtually stop such illegal activity within weeks of the camera going in place.
The police chief said dispatch, after getting a call, monitored the camera. They were able to inform the responding officer details about a subject such as the color and style and shirt they were wearing, if they placed items in their pockets, and what direction they were leaving if officers hadn’t arrived yet. The ability of the cameras to help direct police response enabled the department to essentially stop criminal activity at the skate park.
Estarziau noted police officers would also be able to go back to footage to investigate crimes that weren’t reported when they occurred.
The police chief said if the test works, other hot spots could possibly have cameras such as Southside Park.
The city originally budgeted funds for cameras at Library Park and Southside Park in 2009 when Dave Bricker was still police chief. At the time the city sought to deploy them to combat gangs that had been pushing people out of Southside Park and illicit activities that were doing the same at Library Park.
The city encountered issues with storage and price. Given video recording conducted by the city falls under the public records law, they have to keep video on hand for at least a year. There were also issues with indexing the videos for quick reference.
Several years later, cameras were back in the budget hoping to put them in place on a system in connection with the transit center. That effort went nowhere as well.
Costs have dropped sigfnicantly and technology has substantially improved the quality of images since then.
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