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Police bust makeshift homeless encampments
A homeless man sleeps in the shell of a vacant building in the 300 block of East Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca. - photo by HIME ROMERO

It’s not a crime being homeless

It is, however, to sleep on private property and in municipal parks.

Manteca Police over the past week have busted up two homeless encampments under overpasses prompting the homeless – almost exclusively single males – to scatter throughout city streets.

It has prompted an increase in homeless found sleeping on private property in central Manteca including in the doorways of some downtown businesses.

“It’s getting worse,” noted Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker.

Police, though are keeping a close eye on places such as Library Park that have been a popular gathering spot for the homeless during the day.

“They (the homeless) feel safe there,” Bricker, who personally sometimes makes patrol visits to Library Park, said.

It is against the law to drink in parks – including along the Tidewater Bikeway – but not to nap. One can’t, however, camp or pitch a tent. Parks also close at night preventing anyone from legally sleeping overnight.

Bricker said his main concern with Library Park is that it is basically designed for kids and families with the interactive water play feature, playground equipment, and library. The police chief said the city wants to make sure that families are comfortable using the park just as anyone else is.

Surveillance cameras at Library Park and Southside Park near downtown are moving forward as specifications have been written for the equipment. The projects are expected to go out to bid soon with possibly enough money left over to place cameras in another park.

The two parks were picked in a bid to keep gang and transient problems in check. They can be monitored 24/7 from police dispatch. A similar remote camera system placed by the skate park years ago virtually eliminated ongoing problems with some malcontents exposing themselves and brandishing weapons as well as starting fights. It allowed police not only to respond without someone needing to summon them but dispatchers can keep an eye on perpetrators while police are in transit. In one case, the dispatcher was able to tell police after they arrived on scene where one suspect had placed a knife on his body.

Bricker estimated the number of homeless who live on the street in Manteca at 20.

The police chief noted there are other homeless who sleep in cars, in garages, on friends’ coaches and such places but don’t physically sleep virtually unprotected on the street.

During a recent City Council meeting, one speaker lamented the fact that Manteca didn’t have a homeless shelter for single men.

Bricker said locating one in Manteca would be a big mistake as it simply “serves to attract” homeless men from other areas.

“Build it and they will come,” Bricker said.

Manteca has three homeless shelters – one for families, one for single moms, and the other is transitional housing.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail